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Politics, Elections and Government

Kansas House Leader Tries To Put A Good Face On Bleak Tax Collects

Jim McLean
KHI News Service

Kansas received more bad financial news on Monday when the state said tax collections in September missed projections by $45 million.

Since the new fiscal year started July 1, Kansas has collected $68 million less than expected.

But one state House leader is trying to put a good face on a bleak picture.

In an email to colleagues Sunday, Rep. Ron Ryckman, the conservative House budget chairman from Olathe, said lawmakers are facing "challenging times." But "we should not forget the groundwork that has been laid to begin improving the fiscal outlook," he wrote.

Ryckman admitted "the returns will not be immediate" but that "there is hope on the horizon."

However, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, a moderate Republican from Overland Park, says the only good thing she sees is a lot of new blood coming to the Statehouse in January. “Do we have good news on the horizon? Yes, looking forward to go to the Statehouse to work with people who are really excited to clean up this mess.”

Not just a mess, she says, but "a terrible mess" that will take a long time to clean up.

Ryckman does hint in his email that he's willing to work with all members of the Legislature to fix the state's deepening budget problem. "It is imperative that we work together now and under the dome to have an open dialogue acknowledging the necessary complexity and balance required of the solutions we seek." 

It's not surprising that Ryckman wanted to get out ahead of the revenue report. He is expected to win re-election in November and is widely expected to run for House speaker.

Ryckman points to an efficiency study done last year by the consulting firm Alvaraz and Marsal.  "Though not everything in the Alvaraz and Marsal should be pursued, it is worth remembering we have put in place a foundation to begin establishing efficiencies and scaling back the scope of state government," he wrote.

All of that is fine, says Clayton, but she wants to scale back the operating budget of the Legislature. Something the A and M study didn't address. “If the Legislature gets our house in order and runs things in a very efficient manner, then we can regain the trust of the people, which we have lost, and we have to earn that again.”

While Clayton says she doesn't know how much the state could save, she says she would like to see the Legislature save money on salaries and go paperless.

Sam Zeff is co-host of the political podcast Statehouse Blend and covers education for KCUR. Follow Sam on Twitter @SamZeff.

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