Archive for Thursday, December 4, 2008

Governor should take lead in crisis

December 4, 2008

Last week, two Republican legislators called for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to immediately use her executive powers to order cuts in state spending in the face of continuing shortfalls in state revenue.

The Republican lawmakers point was that the earlier cuts were proposed, the more time agencies had to deal with the consequences.

We would agree the two men, Melvin Neufeld — replaced earlier this week as House speaker — and Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, have a point. The state’s financial picture is an evolving crisis. Latest numbers suggest the state should expect a $147 million budget shortfall in the current fiscal year and a $1 billion shortfall in the next year of July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2008.

Sebelius has taken some action. The governor told state agency heads in June spending reductions of 1 to 2 percent could be needed for the current fiscal year and as much as a

5 percent cut could be needed for the next.

Last month with revenue numbers looking bleaker, Sebelius told state agencies planning should reflect 3 percent cuts this fiscal year.

The state’s current financial situation is being defined as a crisis and that definition demands leadership. The governor should do more than ask for across the board cuts. She should make proposals based on what she sees are state priorities. That would involve difficult decisions. With that, Sebelius would risk offering targets to her legislative critics, but she has not shied from a fight in the past.

A spokesman for the governor’s office said Sebelius would begin a review of the budget this week and added that the governor could make near-term action.

That would be welcome, even from agencies affected. It would be especially beneficial to local school districts to know as soon as possible how they might have to adjust budgets set last July.

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