By Murrel Bland

Budget woes continue for the State of Kansas. That was the message from Cathy Damron, the lobbyist for the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce Friday, Nov. 13 when the Chambers Legislative Committee met.

Damron said that the bad news came Friday, Nov. 6 when the states official forecasting group met and reported, yet again, that revenues were continuing to decline.
Here are the reductions: $159.1 million from the remainder of the current year; $194.5 million from next year.

Without a doubt, the worst news for lawmakers is the lackluster revenue being generated by the tax hikes passed this session, Damron said. That means that lawmakers will be back in much the same position next year, looking at either tax adjustments, further budget cuts (for next year) or both.

Gov. Sam Brownbacks budget has shifted tax revenues from income to sales tax. Many political observers believe his tax plan has been a disaster. Critics say in the past, a proper balance among three taxing sources?property, income and sales?served Kansans well.

Damron said that there has been further erosion of funds from the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT.) She said that this erosion has generated a sharp reaction from various Kansas transportation organizations including the Economic Lifelines group.

Mike Smallwood, the chairman of the Legislative Committee, was at a meeting of the Congressional Forum on Friday, Oct. 16 when the featured speaker was Mike King, the Secretary of Transportation. Smallwood told King he was concerned about money that was intended for highways was being transferred to cover budget deficits.

When I asked King about robbing money from the First National Bank of KDOT, King bristled.

I wont use that term, King said. He said that the practice of using available funds from KDOT started with Gov. Mike Haydens administration. Hayden was governor from 1987 to 1991.

The Chambers Legislative Committee is drafting its 2016 agenda. Among the issues to be submitted to the Chambers Board of Directors include:

*A property appraisal process that provides the business community with a high level of certainty and consistency. Greg Kindle, the President of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said this is very important in attracting new businesses to Wyandotte County. It is also important for those wanting to expand, Kindle said.

*Legislation that would streamline the process for local government and neighborhood organizations to deal with abandoned property.

*Opposition to changing the gaming laws that would impact the Hollywood Casino. There is concern that legislation, which has passed the Senate, would change the rules for those who would operate The Woodlands with horse racing and slot machines.

*Support for origin-based sales tax for intrastate purchases.

*Continued funding for the comprehensive transportation program and opposing any further transfer of funds from transportation to the general fund.

*Creation of a funding formula that would ensure that all Kansas children could attend well-funded public schools.

*A stable funding mechanism that could include expanding Medicaid that would reduce the burden on local government and hospitals.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.