Topeka The Legislature won't approve a tax increase to raise extra money for public schools, its newly designated Republican leaders said Monday.
Senate President-elect Dave Kerr and House Speaker-elect Kent Glasscock made that assessment only hours after Republicans in their chambers named the two men to their leadership jobs.
"We will not raise taxes," Glasscock, R-Manhattan, told reporters. "I would be absolutely flabbergasted if the Kansas House raised taxes in the 2001 session. Is that as emphatic as one can be?"
Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said many senators want to increase spending on public schools, so that the amount of the increase keeps pace with inflation.
But he also said: "I don't see any support for a tax increase. I haven't had any of my colleagues, new or veteran, coming to me and telling me that they are anxious to make that kind of a push."
Legislators expect school finance to be next year's biggest issue. The state spends almost half of its $4.6 billion general fund on public schools, and many legislators think the formula for distributing money to Kansas' 304 school districts is seriously flawed.
The State Board of Education proposed an increase in spending on public schools of more than $200 million.
A task force appointed by Gov. Bill Graves as part of his 21st Century Vision Initiative also proposed spending increases worth $215 million as stopgap measures until the state can do a study to determine the true cost of a suitable education in each district.
In addition, legislators are likely to face heavy pressure from education groups for large increases in spending.
Glasscock said: "All of us just went through an election cycle. I am not aware of any district in the state that had a constituency, a voter base, that was clamoring for a tax increase."
Earlier this year, Graves said he probably wouldn't propose a tax increase for education. However, on Friday, he wasn't as firm, saying only that he might delay outlining a school finance plan until after he gives his State of the State address on Jan. 8.
Glasscock said if there is a proposal to increase taxes, it would come from Democrats.
House Minority Leader Jim Garner, D-Coffeyville, replied: "He
hasn't been attending our caucus meetings, so I don't know how he knows any of that."
Garner said legislators are waiting to see what Graves will propose.
"Any big reform of school finance is going to have to come straight from the governor's office," Garner said. "That's just the bottom line. It's going to require leadership from that office."