The state budget (2)

Valley Voice

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Legislators are reviewing Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposed $26.5 billion budget for the 2025 fiscal year that begins in July. The total is from all sources – federal money, non-federal highway funds, the general fund (state and local taxes), various dedicated taxes, fees, agency funds, and so forth.

The budget is an estimate of income against outgo. The balance must be in the black because the state constitution says the state cannot spend money it doesn’t have. In recent years the Kelly administration has turned balanced budgets into billion-dollar surpluses. The treasury now holds a $3.2 billion embarrassment of riches ‒ a projected $1.5 billion operating balance plus $1.7 billion in reserves.

The savings, layered with $1 billion in remaining covid relief money, emerge in a proposed $11.2 billion operating fund. This is the centerpiece for budget debates in Topeka because the fund pays the day to day expenses of government. It is often called the “general fund” or simply, “the budget.” Although less than half of total spending, this account is critical because 90 percent is derived from state income, sales and property taxes.

The budget always prompts long arguments over how and where to tax and spend. The overall proposal contains more than $5 billion in federal funds; other revenues come through an array of Kansas assessments, fees and taxes on individuals and corporations. The final spending plan will not be decided until late April or early May.

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This budget affects us all. Every time a park opens, or a siren blows, when a faucet runs, when the trash is picked up or the roads cleared, when the swimming pool comes to life, or the hike trail beckons, we are reminded of the state’s presence. It holds a steady energy; courthouses, airports, hospitals, schools and colleges, highways and bridges and more are touched by the state budget. Its services reach into every corner of Kansas life, including more than $7 billion in aid to local governments.

The budget document comes in 893 pages over two volumes. The total $26.5 billion is a five percent, $1.3 billion increase over actual and estimated spending this year.

Tucked into that overall plan, the $11.2 billion operating budget carries a 13 percent ($1.3 billion) increase over the current estimate at $9.9 billion. The increase reflects proposals to invest roughly half the current surplus in tax cuts, reforms and incentives.

Total spending may be seen among five groups:

‒ Education, $10.9 billion. This includes local schools, community colleges, vo-tech institutions, state universities, school for the deaf, the state Historical Society and State Library, and other institutions that receive various grants and aid.

‒ Human services, $9 billion. This is for the Departments of Children and Families, Aging and Disability Services, Labor, Kansas Neurological Institute; and state hospitals at Larned, Osawatomie and Parsons.

‒ Public Safety, $1.3 billion. This includes the Highway Patrol, KBI, State Fire Marshal, Adjutant General, Sentencing Commission and nine state prisons, including one for juveniles.

‒ General Government, $2.4 billion. This includes, among others, the Department of Administration, Kansas Corporation Commission, Department of Revenue, Governor’s office, Attorney General, Insurance Department, Secretary

of State, State Treasurer, the Legislature, the Judiciary, and three dozen other state regulatory boards, commissions and departments.

‒ Transportation, $2.3 billion. This is chiefly the budget for the Kansas Department of Transportation (roads, bridges, highways).

‒ State Finance Council, $159 million. The nine-member Council, led by the governor, acts on state budget and financial matters when the Legislature is not in session.

‒ Agriculture and Natural Resources, $325 million. This includes the Department of Agriculture, State Fair, Department of Wildlife and Parks and Kansas Water Office.

(Next: the general fund)

1 COMMENT

  1. Kansas state total budget for FY2005 – $10 billion +
    Kansas state total budget for FY2010 – $13.7 billion
    Kansas state total budget for FY2015 – $15 billion
    Kansas state total budget for FY2020 – $18.7 billion
    Kansas State total budget for FY2025 – $23 billion + (proposed)

    How does this budget expansion align with state population growth? How does it compare to officially stated inflation rates?

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