Published: Thu, May 25, 2017
National | By Rosalie Gross

Kansas lawmakers draft new budget fix with mix of tax hikes

Kansas lawmakers draft new budget fix with mix of tax hikes

The measure is slated to get a final vote in the House Thursday.

Wednesday was Day 100 of the 2017 session, the number of days for which it was budgeted.

Conservative Republican legislators say Kansas doesn't need to increase taxes this year to fix its budget if lawmakers control spending.

Nine Republicans joined the House Democrats in supporting the $600 million boost.

The Supreme Court has said if a constitutionally adequate funding formula isn't in place by June 30, it will shut down public schools.

That would put an immediate halt to summer school programs, as well as summer meal programs that serve more than a million free meals to low-income children during the summer.

Rep. Jim Ward, the Democratic leader from Wichita, has no doubt a special session is in store.

"I do fully support the formula that's in this bill", she said.

"I hope not", he said of a special session. "But if we have to, we'll come back and fix it".

Masterson acknowledged that the plan would not provide extra dollars for public schools to comply with a state Supreme Court ruling March that said education funding is inadequate. Caryn Tyson, wasn't optimistic the measure could be pushed over the 21-vote hump in the Senate. Senators were told a school finance bill won't make it to the floor until next week.

The bill would extend for five years the STAR bond tax incentive program for commercial developments, initiative an Ad Astra investment fund for rural business projects and authorize a $7.7 million in tax credits for the aviation industry. The Supreme Court will take the amount, along with the formula itself, into consideration in deciding whether to approve the plan. It cited academic underperformance by 25 percent of Kansas students.

Rep. Ed Trimmer, D-Winfield, offered that amendment, saying that would eventually bring per-pupil funding back to its 2008-2009 peak of roughly $4,400, before then-Gov.

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"I'll be sending my navy suit to the cleaners, because I think I'm going to have to go to court again", Rupe said. He listed a series of tax cuts over the years that have reduced revenue for the state.

"If they didn't have, we assume they may soon", Johnson said.

"We can't fund this amendment at this point in time", Huebert said.

An amendment from Republican Rep. John Whitmer from Wichita, would have allowed optional gun safety training in schools.

"None of us really know for certain", Hineman said about the bill passing court muster.

Other amendments considered by lawmakers mostly failed or were ruled out of order. It would have mandated that transgender students use restrooms, locker rooms or other facilities according to the gender on their birth certificates.

Another, by Jerry Stogsdill, D-Prairie Village, would have reinstated teacher due process rights, also known as teacher tenure, which lawmakers repealed in 2015.

"For a lot of people, getting this bill through first was their No. 1 priority". House and Senate negotiators will have to draft a new plan. They contend the amount of increased education funding should drive the size of a tax package.

- The Kansas House gave first-round approval Wednesday to a new school finance plan that would phase in a $280 million increase in annual K-12 school funding over the next two years.

Rep. Steven Johnson, the Assaria Republican leading House tax negotiators, said last-minute adjustments to the bill were meant to help secure the minimum 63 votes for passage in the House.

A special House committee met for weeks crafting the school finance bill.

"This is a different bill than anything we do", said Rep. Larry Campbell, R-Olathe, who led the House effort in developing the bill.

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