Archive for Thursday, April 1, 2004

Kansas Senate rejects two school funding plans

April 1, 2004


— The Kansas Senate this evening rejected two plans to increase taxes for public schools, and Republicans said they would introduce a no-new-tax plan Friday.

State Sen. Dave Jackson, R-Topeka, said the new proposal will increase school funding by $35 million.

"We think we'll have 21 votes," a majority in the 40-member Senate, Jackson said. Senate President Dave Kerr, R-Hutchinson, said he planned to support the proposal.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka called it a "meager" plan that would only get support from Republicans. "The word bi-partisanship doesn't have much meaning in the Kansas Senate," Hensley said.

Hensley's remarks came after the Senate rejected two school finance plans.

One would have increased funding by $155.4 million through a two-tenths of a cent state sales tax increase and 4.5 percent state income tax surcharge.

That proposal was favored by most Democrats and moderate Republicans.

The bill would have increased state aid per student by $100 and provided increases for programs for children at risk of failing, students who are learning English, and it would have boosted special education funding by $54 million.

"That is truly a major step for the state to make," Hensley said of the special education funding. "Everybody benefits from this provision. It goes to the most vulnerable kids in Kansas," he said.

But opponents said the tax increases would hurt the economy and result in thousands of lost jobs.

"If you want to make certain that the economy doesn't recover, this tax increase will make certain of that," state Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, said.

The proposal failed 16-23.

Then the Seante considered a smaller package that would have increased school funding by $59 million through a one-tenth cent increase in the state sales tax and by capturing funds through other tax changes and anticipated growth in lottery receipts.

But that proposal was opposed by both anti-tax senators and members who preferred increased spending. It was defeated 12-25.

After the vote, Jackson revived the bill so that he could insert a new plan in it today. The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn today before returning April 28 for the wrap-up session.

For more on this story, pick up a copy of Friday's Journal-World.

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