TOPEKA, Kan. — State agencies’ annual budget recommendations to the Kansas governor are merely “draft” documents and not subject to the state’s open record laws, Gov. Sam Brownback’s administration insisted Friday.
Budget director Shawn Sullivan has advised Cabinet agency staff members that budget proposals submitted to Brownback are internal documents that are not public information under the Kansas Open Records Act.
The state’s finances are in the spotlight because of persistent state tax revenue shortfalls, potential mid-year cuts by Brownback, proposed revision of employee layoff policies and the upcoming November election.
Unexpectedly low tax collections in July and August have placed the state budget about $20 million underwater for the fiscal year, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/2dnBHsi ) reported.
Standard practice among Kansas agencies that are under direct control of a governor has been to provide the next fiscal year’s budget strategy in September. The reports form the basis of a formal budget blueprint, released to the Legislature at the beginning of annual sessions in January.
Sullivan has instructed state agency administrators to view their proposals as preliminary work product that’s not covered by KORA requests, Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley said in a statement Friday.
In December 2014, weeks before Brownback’s budget plan was submitted to the Legislature, Sullivan provided select lobbyists an outline for filling a budget hole driven by massive income tax cuts the governor championed. Lobbyists David Kensinger and Mark Dugan, longtime political associates of the governor, were among those receiving the outline.
The email traffic, sent on a private Yahoo account and first reported by The Wichita Eagle, showed Brownback wanted to raise the sales tax on cigarettes, divert highway funding and alter the state’s school funding formula.
Agencies have been urged in the current budget cycle to study the possibility of submitting budgets that include 5 percent spending reductions — about $300 million in cuts in the $6 billion state budget.
Sen. Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said she believes there is little remaining in the state budget that can be cut other than personnel expenses.
“Probably these budgets involve firing people,” she said.
Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com