Jun 30, 2020 10:15 AM

HAWVER: Candidates face questions about Kan. revenue shortfall

Posted Jun 30, 2020 10:15 AM
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.
Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.

Let’s see just how this works out on the doorstep as candidates in the next month ask for your vote in the primary, then general election this fall.

It starts out, of course, with the candidates briefly taking their mask elastic off one ear, and showing you their face, briefly.

Then, if you don’t shut the door and tell them to get off your porch, they’ll mention some of the things they believe you want to hear.

How about “I’ll only vote to increase taxes by $1.5 billion next year?”

And then, we expect, just before slamming the door, many voters will tell the candidate to get off their porch, and off their property and get back out to the public sidewalk.

Oh, and that $1.5 billion?

That’s the amount of shortfall that the Kansas Legislative Research Department last week calculated that the brand-new, elected, or re-elected Legislature is going to have to raise to keep the state open for business.

It’s the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which will, the department estimates, be the difference between the pared spending proposed by Gov. Laura Kelly for the fiscal year that starts July 1 and the amount of money needed to keep the state operating at a little worse than it is this year in terms of providing its citizens the programs they want.

And, surprisingly, we’re finding out that the governor’s proposed spending cuts she will make from the Legislature-approved and governor-signed budget for the year starting July 1 will still leave the state that $1.5 billion short of cash.

We’re thinking that $1.5 billion is going to be what voters are going to be concerned about, not proposals to require you to walk your cat on a leash or to designate a new specialty license tag  honoring Kansans whose last names start with vowels.

That’s what the coronavirus has done to Kansas—cut revenues as Kansans lose their jobs or are furloughed by their employers to curb spread of the disease. And…to see less shopping and sales tax receipts from Kansans who are still buying groceries, cars, school clothes and everything else that we used to buy when we weren’t afraid to enter into stores and insurance offices and could go to bars and health clubs and swimming pools.

That’s a tremendous amount of money that whomever we elect from our districts to represent us in Topeka are going to have to either generate through taxes or to save through cutting services to Kansans ranging from police protection to health-care for the poor through Medicaid to welfare to keep them able to pay their rent, care for their children and everything else.

Oh, and to keep those schools funded constitutionally, though we’re still not sure whether kids will be going to the school building or hunkering over their (possibly school-supplied) computers to learn what we want the kids to know so they can grow up to land solid jobs and support themselves.

Now there are some answers short of raising taxes on Kansans. Congress might appropriate money that states can use to fill the revenue vs. expense shortfall that the ongoing pandemic has caused. Or, there may be a shot or pill you can take next year to end the pandemic, kicking the full state economy back to normal.

Or not.

But there are 40 seats to fill in the Senate and 125 in the House where the winners are going to face that revenue shortfall problem. And how will they describe that to you on the doorstep or with postcards or over the Internet? 

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com