Kansas governor to seek ‘modest’ tax increases to fix budget

TOPEKA, Kan. — Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that he will propose “modest, targeted” tax increases to help close Kansas’ serious budget shortfalls while strongly defending an income tax break that some fellow GOP lawmakers want to end.

Brownback also told a joint session of the Republican-controlled Legislature in his annual State of the State address that he will outline budget “efficiencies.” He cautioned lawmakers against expanding the state’s Medicaid program in line with the 2010 federal health care overhaul that President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are planning to repeal.

Kansas faces a projected $342 million shortfall in its current budget and gaps in funding for existing programs that total $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging in what many voters now see as a failed attempt at stimulating the economy.

Brownback acknowledged that state government “is confronting challenges,” blaming them on “struggles” in key parts of the economy, particularly agriculture and oil production. He urged legislators to pass a bill rewriting the current budget this month and said they should look for efficiencies before raising new revenues.