April 22, 2016

It may sound like a broken record, but Kansas faces still more budget-related pain.

The ongoing fiscal fiasco triggered by Gov. Sam Brownback’s deep income-tax cuts of 2012 and 2013 now includes a projected budget shortfall of more than $290 million this fiscal year and next.

Brownback’s folks quickly blamed the latest gloomy forecast on setbacks in agriculture, aircraft manufacturing and oil-and-gas production. They are indeed factors — and precisely the reason it made no sense to gut a sure revenue stream in income taxes.

To make matters worse, the governor has placed another run on funds for preschool children’s programs atop possible budget-fixing options.

He’s angling to cash in on state tobacco settlement payments currently allocated to the Children’s Initiatives Fund. Looking to help fill the state budget crater, Brownback would bond future settlement payments in exchange for a one-time cash payment for cents on the dollar — an alarmingly desperate payday-loan approach, and surefire way to further erode the state’s credit rating at a future cost to taxpayers.

And the Brownback camp’s promise to preserve assistance for preschoolers in the state general fund is laughable, considering repeated money grabs to pay for the governor’s failed economic policies.

The maneuver, if legislators approve, only would threaten high-quality early childhood programs proven to give vulnerable children healthier starts in life, and ward off poor outcomes that drive higher costs to society in law enforcement, social services and beyond.

More than 4,000 youngsters were assisted last year in southwest Kansas alone.

The state has no business attempting to balance the budget on our children’s future — and especially to pay for a self-inflicted economic crisis.

Yet as easy as it may be to single out the governor for the seemingly never-ending fallout, Kansans cannot overlook his fellow ultraconservatives who’ve rubber-stamped one reckless pursuit after another.

Brownback’s legislative cronies now worried about being re-elected this year want to point a finger at the governor.

But he wasn’t alone in charting a disastrous course for Kansas. They all own the mess.

Unless voters oust ultraconservative lawmakers statewide, Brownback will be free to continue on a mission to shortchange good programs for children and beyond.

Read more from the Garden City Telegram.