DALLAS - Kansas lawmakers are considering Gov. Sam Brownback's proposed increases in spending for the next two fiscal years.
Brownback's adjusted spending plan for the current fiscal year 2014 is $30.7 million or 0.5% greater than the budget passed in 2013.
The 2015 budget proposal represents an increase of $429.8 million. The initial revenue estimate for fiscal year 2015 is $5.917 billion, which is $60.6 million, or 1%, above the fiscal 2014 figure.
Brownback outlined the spending plan after his state-of-the-state address Jan. 15.
"When we gathered here three years ago, we faced two big challenges: the economy and the budget," Brownback told lawmakers in Topeka. "Kansas state government was flat broke. We had begun the fiscal year with $876.05 in the bank."
At the time, everyone from school districts to service vendors was suffering months of delays, because state government had no cash, he said.
"By January, the state budget was illegally in deficit," Brownback said. "Even more daunting, we faced a $500 million pending shortfall, and that was after taxes had been raised."
Brownback, a conservative Republican, credited his package of tax cuts for restoring the economy and increasing state revenues.
"Since December 2010, Kansas has added on average, more than a thousand private sector jobs every month and our unemployment rate has gone from 6.9% to 5.1% tied for the tenth lowest rate in the United States. We've put cash in the bank, we're paying our bills on time and we've balanced three budgets in a row."
With revenues rising, Brownback said he sees an opportunity for targeted investments in schools and prisons. The 2015 budget calls for a $52 million increase in outlays for various school programs and $363 million for the Kansas Department of Corrections.
As part of the two-year budget passed in 2013, Republican legislative leaders cut higher education funding by $33 million. In approving the cuts, Brownback said he would fight to restore the cuts in 2014.