Topeka Democratic leaders Tuesday said Gov. Sam Brownback's plans to phase out the state income tax and eliminate limits on local property taxes for schools would have dire consequences.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said Brownback's proposal would lead to an education system of "haves and have nots" and skyrocketing property taxes.
"We are several years away from having a property tax revolt in this state," Davis said.
Davis and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka spoke to the State Board of Education about the Democratic alternative to the proposals by Brownback, a Republican. Several Republicans on the education board also expressed concerns about Brownback's school funding overhaul.
On taxes, Brownback has proposed lowering income tax rates, giving thousands of businesses a tax break, eliminating standard deductions, and making permanent the 6.3 percent state sales tax, which is currently scheduled to decrease to 5.7 percent next year. Brownback also wants to limit spending growth to 2 percent per year and use any state revenue collected above that to phase out the income tax.
On school finance, Brownback wants to remove state limits on local property taxes for schools and eliminate the current system of providing extra funds to educate certain kinds of students, such as those at risk of failing. Brownback has said his measure will give local officials more authority in how they raise and spend school dollars.
Hensley said Brownback's plan would "impose a massive tax shift on local property taxes to support Kansas schools."
That isn't fair, Hensley said, because rich districts would be more able to raise school taxes than poor districts.
Several members of the education board agreed.
Walt Chappell, a Republican from Wichita, said of the governor's plan, "I do not think this is equitable at all."
But Chappell said the state faces serious funding problems.
Jana Shaver, a Republican from Independence, also expressed concerns over Brownback's plan. "My hope is that as this process moves forward, that everyone recognizes the importance of looking at the property tax load."
The Democratic plan would keep in place the current school finance formula and increase funding by $180 million over the next three years to restore some of the cuts that schools have absorbed over the past several years. It would also send $45 million to local governments as a way to reduce property taxes.
"We don't have an income tax problem, we have a property tax problem in Kansas," Hensley said.
The funding would come from greater-than-expected revenues that the state has been receiving.
State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita, asked if the Legislature could reach a compromise on school finance.
Hensley and Davis said there is bi-partisan support for Brownback's proposal to increase technical education funding. Approving the technical education plan and increasing school funding under the current school finance formula could be the basis for a compromise, Hensley said.