Kansas revenue estimates upgraded on the heels of election season

On the heels of last week’s election, what appears to be good news for the state and incoming Governor-elect Laura Kelly was released on Friday. The state’s official consensus revenue-estimating group increased the projection for tax collections expected during the current fiscal year by $291 million.

The current fiscal year runs though June 30, 2019. The estimate is 4.2 percent higher than the previous fiscal forecast made in April, and it brings the prediction for tax collections to $7.2 billion.

The forecasting group is made up of legislative researchers, Department of Revenue officials and state university economists. The forecasters also predicted tax collections will grow by 2.7 percent during the fiscal year that begins in July, of next year, to $7.4 billion. Gov. elect Kelly learned Friday that she stands a better chance of fulfilling a campaign promise to boost spending on Kansas’ public schools without raising taxes due to the new, more optimistic fiscal forecast.

Tax collections have exceeded expectations for 17 straight months. The longest streak since 1966. During this time, the legislature passed and then overrode a veto to reverse the Brownback tax-cuts. However, prior revenue projections were downgraded at least three times before expectations began being met and exceeded.

Questions from some as to whether the state’s fiscal status was truly improved or only appearing to be improved on paper due to lowered expectations were tip-toed by officials who seemed to be unsure of that answer themselves. Waiting to see what the results of the change in tax policy would be.

It appears that wait is over. The move by the revenue estimating group last week is one that can be simply described as putting their money where their mouth is, and as confirmation of an improved economic climate and revenue stream in the state.

Departing Gov. Jeff Colyer said the news puts Kansas in a better position to lower taxes while funding education and making other critical investments in the state. Laura Kelly said during a news conference Thursday that increasing school funding is her top priority, but during her campaign, she had a list of other areas she wanted to see increased in the budget including higher education, social services and mental health services.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said he doesn’t think a tax increase to fund schools is going to be necessary, and that the new forecast gives the incoming governor more flexibility. Some Republican legislators have vowed to hold Kelly to a campaign promise to not increase taxes with their majorities in both state house and senate.

The Jewell County Record contributed to this report