Kansas: Budget Battle Highlights Divisions Within Republican Party


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Late last week, the Kansas Legislature adjourned a dramatic session that ended at 3 a.m. Friday morning, when a controversial budget that slashed spending for schools, social services, and the arts was finally approved. In total, 2,000 state positions were eliminated. And the cuts could have been even worse.

Early in the session, conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity Kansas urged the legislature to repeal last year’s temporary sales tax increase, which raised the state sales tax from 5.3 to 6.3 percent. Thankfully this extreme policy didn’t receive the votes necessary to pass out of the House. In fact, repealing the sales tax hike was dismissed by moderate Republicans and even Republican Governor Sam Brownback.

Shortly after he was elected Governor, he understood that the state’s dire fiscal situation meant that the temporary sales tax hike would need to stay. When asked whether the sales tax increase should be repealed he said, “We're short of resources for the state, and I don't think it's something that we should be doing at this time. Our fiscal situation is not stable.”

One key sticking point for the Senate and House during the budget negotiations was whether or not the state should beef up its cash reserves. Conservatives in the House wanted to put money aside for a rainy day while the Republican-controlled Senate wanted to use that reserve money to curb some of the dramatic spending cuts.

The $14 billion budget cuts overall spending between 5 and 6 percent. But the cutting spree isn’t enough for some conservatives, who say that the budget as passed isn’t one that the state can afford. Conservative Representative John Rubin said, “I'm a fiscal conservative. I encourage our governor to liberally use his line-item veto.”

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