TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said Monday that he's not ruling out a tax increase next year to keep the state's budget balanced, even though he believes it would be harmful to raise taxes with agriculture in a slump.
The term-limited Republican governor had a Statehouse news conference to promote what he sees as several successes that include major highway projects and a reading program for struggling third-graders. Ahead of the Nov. 8 election, he and his aides are trying to counter a political backlash against his conservative allies in legislative races sparked by the state's ongoing budget woes.
The state faces at least a small projected shortfall in its current budget and potential cuts during the next fiscal year that begins in July 2017. Kansas has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback's urging in an effort to boost the economy.
Brownback and his allies blame the state's budget problems on downturns in agriculture and energy production that affect many states. He said the state faces "a rural recession" while the Wichita and Kansas City areas are seeing growth.
"I think it would be very harmful if you're looking at raising a lot of taxes on people in the middle of a rural recession," Brownback said.
But asked whether he was ruling out a tax increase, Brownback said, "I'm not ruling anything in or out."
Democrats and moderate Republicans have campaigned for the Legislature on goals that include increasing state aid to public schools and protecting funding for highway projects. If they attempt to follow through, lawmakers would have to consider backtracking on past income tax cuts — and passing a major tax increase.
Fourteen GOP conservatives lost their seats in the August primary.
"His policies are turning the state into a dystopia," said Kansas Democratic Party Chairman Lee Kinch.
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This story has been corrected to show that the day of the week was Monday, not Tuesday.