Archive for Monday, November 4, 2013

Legislators say big budget cuts to higher ed, other areas would occur if public schools win finance lawsuit

November 4, 2013


— Republican legislators are sounding early alarm bells, saying a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court against the state in the school finance lawsuit would result in significant budget cuts, tax increases or both.

In a meeting last week with higher education officials, state Rep. Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park, put Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on notice, saying that KU and other universities should prepare for significant decreases in funding if the court orders legislators to increase funding to public schools.

"You really do have a horse in this race," Lunn said to Gray-Little. He suggested that Gray-Little "talk to your friendly Supreme Court justices."

Referring to the court, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, said, "Everything is in limbo, or until the 1,000-pound gorilla keeps thumping its chest or goes away."

Democrats have a different take on the situation. They say Republicans have only themselves to blame for following Gov. Sam Brownback down the path of drastically cutting income tax rates and putting the budget on a collision course.

"Where we are now is because of the actions that the Legislature and governor took," said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka.

In arguments before the Kansas Supreme Court, Alan Rupe, the attorney representing plaintiff school districts, said legislators cut $511 million per year from schools at the same time they were passing income tax cuts worth $2.5 billion through 2018.

"They instituted a tax cut of $2.5 billion, and they took all of the resources out of the system, and then stand here and plead that they can’t afford to increase spending to schools. That’s the problem that we’re dealing with here," Rupe said.

The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case later this year or in early 2014. Earlier this year, a three-judge panel ruled that the state unconstitutionally cut funding and owes schools upwards of $500 million per year. Under the Kansas Constitution, the Legislature must provide "suitable provision for finance of the educational interests of the state."

If the high court were to uphold the three-judge panel's decision, Lunn said state government functions, including higher education and social services, would face significant budget cuts.

Merrick said he doesn't believe a tax increase is the answer.

"Are we going to go back on the sales tax? I sure don't want that fight again," he said.

During the last legislative session, Brownback pushed to make permanent the 6.3 percent state sales tax, instead of letting it fall to 5.7 percent on July 1, which was required under previous law.

Brownback, a Republican, had said the state may need revenue from the higher levy in case of a ruling against the state in the school finance lawsuit.

But some Republicans in the Republican-majority Legislature wanted to let the sales tax fall back to 5.7 percent. In the end, they agreed to setting it at 6.15 percent.


Bob Zimmerman 4 years, 7 months ago

Cuting back on higher education is a good idea.

Uneducated people tend to stay where they were born, don't get paid as much, and and can be easily persuaded (can you say simpleton?) by jack ass legislators. This is the recipe for economic development in Kansas.

How else do you expect people to live in Wichita, Topeka, and wertern Kansas?

Cille King 4 years, 7 months ago

"You really do have a horse in this race," Lunn said to Gray-Little. He suggested that Gray-Little "talk to your friendly Supreme Court justices."

What does this say about Rep. Jerry Lunn, R-Overland Park, view of Kansas Supreme Court Justices - that they would be swayed from their duty to rule on the law - by a "friendly discussion"?

Mike George 4 years, 7 months ago

Lunn and Merrick are perfect examples of the "gorillas" pounding their chests - this kind of comment by Rep. Lunn is an extreme case of arrogance, disrespect for the rule of law, ignorance, and attempting to associate the school finance case with a threatened hold-up of funding for higher ed. I can barely believe that Lunn, Merrick and their fellow conservative legislators have abdicated their responsibilities to all public education in Kansas and then blamed the Supreme Court and Appellate Court for potentially holding them to those responsibilities. But what should I expect from Rep. Lunn - just look at his legislative website to be underwhelmed by his legislative achievements. Previous generations of Kansans are ashamed of them. And I am no Democrat.

William Weissbeck 4 years, 7 months ago

Am I the only one that saw this as a threat? A veiled statement that the legislature will either rob Peter to pay Paul, or will raise taxes to pay for both? But it will be the university's fault if either of those happen?

Larry Sturm 4 years, 7 months ago

Restore the income tax cuts to the rich that they imposed is the only fair way to restore funding to education. Where are all the jobs that Brownback touted to come to Kansas?

Steve King 4 years, 7 months ago

So pleased to see so many insightful comments.

Larry, I'm with you 100%.

William, I agree it's a threat. Shades of Pendergast.

Brett, I don't know but I do like the syrup.

Mike, you nailed it!

Barbara, always love your down to earth wisdom.

Cille, it's shows he has no respect.

Bob..."We don't need no education" I'd love to read more into it but I have a Kansas education...

I see the tide turning. People in general (the one's we need to get out and vote) are starting to see the toxic brew the far right conservatives are cooking. The T-Party got hijacked by the big money and used like an old suitcase. Once the kooks get pushed out in 2014 we should start to see saner heads prevail on both sides.

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