Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson (D) appealed to lawmakers Jan. 11 to increase cigarette and sales taxes to help close the state's current $400 million budget gap and prevent deeper cuts to schools and social services.
"As a person who is fiscally responsible and as a person who has cut more out of our state budget than any Kansan in history, let me repeat - there isn't $400 million left that we can responsibly cut," the outgoing governor told the Republican-controlled Legislature during his state of the state address.
Parkinson, a former Republican state legislator, switched parties in 2006 to run with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D). He got the top job when President Obama tapped Sebelius for his Cabinet last year and opted not to run when his term expires at the end of this year.
Parkinson called the $1 billion in budget cuts last year brutal. "We are way beyond the point of cutting waste."
He recommended lawmakers raise the cigarette and tobacco tax from 79 cents a pack to the national average of $1.34 and temporarily boost the state sales tax by one cent for three years. After the third year of the sales tax hike, Parkinson suggested leaving two-tenths of a cent in place to fund highway projects.
Parkinson said the higher taxes would allow the state to reinstate some funding to schools, universities and prisons and restore recent cuts to Medicaid. He also called for a constitutional amendment that would require a portion of state revenue be set aside to create an emergency fund.
The governor also thanked lawmakers for acting "in a post-partisan manner" last year in dealing with budget challenges. "We avoided the partisan bickering and childishness that we see in Washington, D.C. Tonight, the need to pull together has never been more important," he said.