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Archive for Saturday, April 9, 2005

Sebelius: Schools plan is ‘recipe for financial disaster’

April 9, 2005

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— A $127 million education funding plan pushed through the Legislature by Republican leaders is a "recipe for financial disaster" because it doesn't provide additional revenues, Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said Friday.

Sebelius told reporters she gives legislators a grade of "incomplete" on important issues such as school finance, improving Kansans' access to health care and rewriting campaign finance laws. Legislators are taking their annual spring break and are scheduled to reconvene April 27 to wrap up their work for the year.

"The Legislature really has failed to deal with all of those critical issues," Sebelius said during a news conference.

House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, dismissed Sebelius' criticism, saying "the session's not over."

The school finance plan achieves GOP leaders' goals of increasing annual spending on public schools without raising state taxes.

The Kansas Supreme Court had given the Legislature until Tuesday to fulfill its "constitutional duty" to provide more money for schools and to distribute the dollars more fairly. Sebelius plans to let the GOP's bill become law without her signature, and had her chief counsel deliver it Wednesday to the Supreme Court.

"We sent what we believe is a workable school finance plan -- and constitutional -- ahead of the deadline, to the courts," Mays said.

But Sebelius argued that, without new revenue, the school finance plan will wreck the state budget. The state's spending would exceed its revenues, consuming cash reserves meant to cushion state government against an economic slump.

"Unfortunately, we see a Legislature back to their old practices, spending far more money than they're taking in," Sebelius said. "Every Kansas business owner, every family, knows that's a recipe for financial disaster."

Mays noted that state officials and university economists plan to issue a new financial forecast for the state on April 18. With general revenue collections now exceeding expectations, those numbers are likely to be more optimistic, he said.

The House speaker said even with the school finance plan, the state is likely to maintain cash reserves of about $200 million -- close the same level recommended by Sebelius. Under her proposed budget, spending also would have exceeded revenues and tapped cash reserves.

"If we're being fiscally irresponsible, then I guess she was, too," Mays said.

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