Archive for Saturday, March 19, 2005

Hensley proposes tax increases for schools

March 19, 2005

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— Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley on Friday proposed a nearly $500 million increase for public schools to be funded by a tax increase and expanded gambling.

"We need to begin the discussion of where we can get the revenue to finance K through 12 education," said Hensley, a Democrat from Topeka, whose district includes a portion of Douglas County.

The proposal would increase the state sales tax from 5.3 cents per dollar to 5.5 cents per dollar and add a 2 percent surcharge on state individual and corporate income tax.

It would raise $494 million over three years, increase state base aid per pupil from $3,863 to $4,223, and target additional money for special education, at-risk and bilingual programs.

Hensley said he doubted his proposal would pass the Republican-dominated Legislature, but he said it would "satisfy the court."

The Kansas Supreme Court has given lawmakers until April 12 to increase funding to schools and make the $2.7 billion finance system more equitable.

So far, Republicans have produced plans to increase school funding by $115.9 million and $147.1 million by tapping into existing revenue and cash reserves and allowing local districts to increase property taxes.

Democrats have derided the plans as too small and said the proposals would widen funding disparity between wealthy districts and the rest of the state.

House leaders have opposed a tax increase for schools, and two attempts to increase taxes in the Senate this year were trounced.

Still, Hensley, said he wanted to get his proposal on the table "so the court can see there are alternatives."

Earlier Friday, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, declined to comment on Hensley's plan before it had been unveiled.

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