Kansas school funding panel balks at making tax choices
Topeka ? A House committee that is writing a new school funding plan reached a consensus Wednesday that it will not try to put any new tax increases into the bill, which is expected to cost around $450 million over the next two years.
Instead, the K-12 Education Budget Committee will leave that decision to the House and Senate tax committees, which are currently struggling with ways to come up with upwards of $1 billion over the same period just to balance the rest of the state’s budget.
“My thinking was it would add credibility to the bill if we had some funding, but I heard pretty much that would be a problem,” chairman Larry Campbell said following a discussion of the issue among committee members Wednesday.
That conversation came while the House was struggling over a tax bill aimed at balancing the remainder of the state’s budget. The school funding plan, however, would add about $450 million in additional state costs over the next two years.
The plan calls for ratcheting up base per-pupil funding by $150 million successively each year over the next five years. That would mean $150 million in new spending in the upcoming school year, then $300 million above current spending for the 2018-2019 school year.
On Tuesday, some members of the committee questioned whether it would violate the Kansas Constitution’s so-called “one-subject” rule by putting education policy changes, appropriations and new taxes all in the same bill.
But Gordon Self, who heads the Revisor of Statutes office, which serves as the Legislature’s in-house legal counsel, said courts generally give the Legislature some leeway on that rule, as long as the taxes, spending and policy changes all relate directly to the same general subject.
Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Assaria, who chairs the House Taxation Committee, spoke briefly to the committee about various revenue options, many of which his committee had held hearings on, and how much revenue could be generated from each one.
Those included such things as raising the statewide property tax levy that is earmarked for education, liquor and tobacco taxes, and even motor fuel taxes.
Most members of the committee, however, said they preferred to focus only on the education funding policy and to leave the revenue decisions either to the tax committees or to the full chambers.