Topeka Atty. Gen. Phill Kline is promising to defend legislators if they don't comply with a Kansas Supreme Court order to increase education spending and to pursue legal action to ensure that schools open on time in August.
His promises Tuesday came as Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and legislators received new revenue projections that would allow them to avoid increasing taxes or expanding gambling to provide an additional $143 million by July 1, as ordered by the court.
Sebelius planned to have a news conference today to discuss school finance developments. She has called a special legislative session for June 22, the first in more than 15 years.
Kline acknowledged in a letter to Sebelius and legislators that the Supreme Court could try to prevent the state from spending money on its schools until the justices are satisfied with the Legislature's response.
His letter offered advice on how Sebelius and legislators could see that schools open on time. For example, he said, legislators could assume the authority to distribute aid to schools instead of the State Board of Education, which is a party to litigation that resulted in the court's ruling.
The attorney general also said legislators could put a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution before voters in 2006 to prevent courts from taking such action in the future.
"Kansas children should not suffer from the inability of the executive, legislative and judicial branches to agree on the definition of 'suitable' funding," Kline wrote.
The new, more optimistic fiscal forecast was good news, but expected. May revenue collections exceeded expectations by $75 million, or about 18 percent, prompting Sebelius to call for revising a forecast issued in April.
The latest forecast predicts the state will collect $86 million more in the current fiscal year than projected, and an additional $86 million in fiscal 2006, which begins July 1. That's $172 million over two fiscal years.
The state is now expected to raise $4.79 billion for the current fiscal year and $4.94 billion for fiscal 2006.
However, Budget Director Duane Goossen said while the state won't need new revenues before the end of the 2006 fiscal year, higher education spending can't be sustained beyond then without new revenues.