By David Klepper/Eagle Topeka Bureau
Kansans will find out just how bad the state’s revenue outlook is today, and just how much more lawmakers may have to cut from state programs like K-12 schools, universities, prisons and social services.
New revenue projections for the next 15 months are due out late this afternoon. The news is not expected to be good as state revenue continues to flatline.
Last month, for instance, state revenues came in $57 million below estimates.
Every six months, experts on the state’s budget and economy get together and come up with an estimate on future tax revenues, as well as projected costs for programs like Medicaid.
These estimators are remarkably good, but it’s not uncommon for updated revenue numbers to throw legislative budgets into disarray. Today’s likely to be one of those times.
Best case scenario: the state’s economic wizards were conservative enough last time and anticipated just how bad revenues were going to get. If today’s revenue estimates come back only modestly lower than earlier projections, lawmakers may only face moderate headaches when they return in two weeks to finish their work on the budget.
Worst case: the estimates come in several hundred million less than earlier estimates.
Lawmakers spent three months eliminating a $1 billion deficit earlier this year. They did it by cutting everybody: schools, universities, general government. Some prison programs were cut to the bone. It would have been a lot worse, too, if not for federal stimulus money.
If the worst-case scenario occurs, lawmakers face 2009 Budget Cuts, the Sequel. And this time, there’s no new federal money and they’ll be starting with a budget that’s already been reduced by hundreds of millions.
It’ll mean potentially brutal cuts, and a very painful veto session when lawmakers return to finish their 2009 work April 29. Typically, veto sessions are 3-5 day affairs. This one could go a lot longer.
Other options: instead of cutting spending, lawmakers could look to raise revenue. Tax increases? Delayed tax breaks? Development fees from companies looking to build casinos? Who knows.
Another idea for lawmakers eyeing their summer vacation: do the minimum when it comes to cuts, and leave the heavy lifting to Mark Parkinson, the lucky guy who gets to inherit this mess when and if Gov. Kathleen Sebelius finally heads to Washington.
We’ll post the news here when we’ve got it.