Topeka One of the most powerful lawmakers in Kansas said no new taxes were needed to comply with a court order to fix public school funding.
"We can address the school finance issue without raising taxes," House Speaker Doug Mays, a Republican from Topeka, said during a Friday news conference.
The Kansas Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that the Legislature had failed to meet the Kansas Constitution's requirement to "make suitable provision for finance" of public schools.
The court also said the Legislature needed to look at changing the system to more equitably distribute funds to schools with high populations of low-income and minority students. It gave lawmakers until April 12 to come up with a solution.
But Mays, just days before Monday's start of the 2005 legislative session, said school funding, which accounts for half of the state budget, could be significantly increased without raising taxes.
He refused to say what constituted a significant increase in school funding, but said the improving economy and growing state tax receipts could provide for additional school funds.
John Martellaro, board president of Kansas Families United for Public Education, disagreed with Mays.
"He is in complete denial," Martellaro said. "The court's ruling is absolutely clear, and it's a mystery to me why these people insist on these tortured interpretations."
Martellaro said the court was relying on the 2001 Legislature-commission study that outlined what a "suitable" education would cost in Kansas. The consultant's study said Kansas needed to spend about $1 billion more on schools.
"There is just no way you can do that without a tax increase unless you wanted to fund nothing but schools," Martellaro said.
Kansas Families United for Public Education also called on lawmakers to drop proposals to try to define in legislation what a "suitable" education is.
Martellaro and other critics of such proposals say the legislation has been drawn up in the past to limit school spending to a "bare-bones" education.