Budget shortfall forcing Kansas to make big cuts

TOPEKA — The news about Kansas' state budget grows more alarming by the day, and that means residents should prepare for potentially painful cuts in state services.

Because of declining tax revenue, Kansas faces a $1 billion deficit in next year’s budget, on top of a more than $140 million shortfall in the current budget year.

The state is legally required to balance its budgets, so lawmakers will have to make cuts. Raising taxes is another option, but no state leader has suggested that.

State Rep. Kenny Wilk, a Lansing Republican, is retiring from the Legislature after 16 years, most of them spent shaping the budget and tax policy. He doesn’t envy the colleagues who remain.

"There will be grown men and women brought to tears over the budget crisis that’s coming," he said. "And rightfully so. It’s going to hurt."

The picture is brighter in Missouri, thanks in large part to a record $833 million carryover from the previous year. But officials there are watching tax receipts closely: The state brought in 12 percent less in corporate income taxes during the last quarter than it did a year ago. Sales tax was off 3.6 percent for the same period.

But in Kansas, nearly every state function — from public schools and colleges to highways and law enforcement — is bracing for leaner days ahead.

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