The Kansas Consensus Revenue Estimating Group projects the state will bring in about $220 million more than previously anticipated. The group released its rosier estimates last week, but Shawn Sullivan, budget director, warned the state should exercise caution on those numbers.
“Positive growth is better than what we’ve had, but we still need to remain cautious about where we are to ensure that those continue,” he said.
The revised estimates suggest the state will have ending balances in 2018 and 2019 of $280 million and $355 million respectively. However, the two-year budget lawmakers adopted last June deferred payments to the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. When those bills come due in 2020, the state’s ending balance will be about $100 million.
In the meantime, lawmakers must respond to a Kansas Supreme Court mandate to develop a new school finance formula. Justices ruled the current formula, adopted this year, unconstitutional, and gave lawmakers an April 30, 2018 deadline to craft a funding mechanism for judicial review. Lawyers for the plaintiffs in the ongoing school funding case suggest schools require an additional $600 million to ensure adequacy.
Legislators passed the largest tax increase in state history in 2017 with the largest state budget to match. There may be limited a limited appetite among lawmakers for increasing taxes again next year.
Following the Kansas Supreme Court ruling, Senate leadership issued a statement saying as much.
“As promised, Senate Republicans remain committed to providing every Kansas student with an exceptional education, however, raising taxes to fund this unrealistic demand is not going to happen.”
Before the 2018 legislative session begins, an interim committee will examine the Court’s ruling and make recommendations to the full legislature for resolving school funding issues. Senate and House leadership refused to rule out potential proposals to limit the Supreme Court’s authority over public school financing via Constitutional amendment. Such an amendment would require two-thirds majority votes in both the House and Senate as well as voter approval through a ballot initiative.