More Details on Briwnback’s School Plan, Others Worry Sin Taxes May Drive Biz to Missouri
January 16, 2015

The head of the National Education Association for the Kansas City, Kansas school district thinks Governor Sam Brownback’s plan for the state’s schools will short change students.
Brownback’s administration fleshed out the details of its education budget Friday.
Brownback’s school budget calls for spending to remain steady for the balance of this school year; next school year and the one after that, 2016-17.
School critics say that’s not enough money and point to recent court rulings to back them up.
In his Thursday night ‘State of the state’ speech, the conservative Republican called for a ‘time out in the school finance wars,”.
Brownback is also asking legislators to start overhauling the state’s complex formula for allocating money to every school district in the state.
The Governor wants the current formula to end this summer. He says school district could get state money through block grants while the formula is being redesigned.
Hodison says that is not practical.
“Well, if there is no formula how to you determine how much each school district gets?”
Another element of the Brownback budget plan is under fire from Kansas in the liquor business and the state’s convenience stores.
The administration is calling for a dramatic raise in the state’s cigarette tax.
The Governor is proposing to raise the 79-cent-per-pack tax to $2.29, almost triple the current tax.
The head of the state’s Petroleum and Convenience Store marketers Association, Tom Palace, said a rate that high would make competing with other states on cigarettes very difficult.
Kansas’ neighbor to the east, Missouri, has the 17-cent per pack cigarette tax, the lowest in the nation.
“All we’d be doing is waving at the taillights as they leave the state,” Palace said.
The co-owner of Rimann’s Liquors in Prairie Village, Ks said much the same thing.
“It would hurt–severally hurt our business. because,, again, Missouri has twice the population and they have significantly lower taxes on fuel, tobacco and of course, alcohol,” she said.
Brownback’s budgeteers hope the increases in the cigarette, tobacco and alcohol taxes, combined with delaying some tax cuts that were expected to take effect this year, will raise more than $300. The state is facing a budget shortfall of $700 million..

Ks. House Appropriations Chairman Resigns Over School Bill
March 31, 2014

(AP) – The House Appropriations Committee’s chairman has resigned from the committee because he says he can’t support a school funding plan drafted by the chamber’s Republican leaders.

Newton Republican Marc Rhoades resigned Monday, just before the start of his committee’s hearings on the plan.

The proposal seeks to address two flaws in funding for poor school districts identified by the Kansas Supreme Court in a March 7 ruling in a school funding lawsuit. The court said the state must boost aid to poor districts.

The fix is estimated to cost $129 million, but the House plan would fund part of that increase by adjusting transportation aid to school districts.

Rhoades said even with the offset, the new spending isn’t sustainable. He said his resignation allows the bill to move forward.

Kansas Lawmakers Return to Topeka in Gannon’s Wake
March 10, 2014

(AP) – Kansas legislators are resuming discussions of education funding in the wake of a state Supreme Court decision that faulted the way certain funds are distributed to school districts.

The court on Friday ruled the state’s funding of schools unconstitutional, and pointed to two specific areas related to aid for poor districts as needing immediate attention.

Legislators have until July 1 to fix the problems, which the state Department of Education said could cost as much as $129 million.

House and Senate Education Committee members scheduled a joint hearing Monday on funding to help students considered at risk of failure because of their families’ low incomes

AP’s 5 Things to Know as Kansas Legislature Starts
January 13, 2014

(AP) – Kansas legislators return Monday to the Statehouse to begin their 90-day, 2014 session. The session is scheduled to run through mid-May, with legislators taking a recess in April before returning to finish remaining business.

Here are five things to know about the Kansas legislative session:


SCHOOL FINANCE RULING: Legislators are waiting on a decision from the Kansas Supreme Court over school funding. Attorneys for the plaintiff parents and school districts say lawmakers failed to fulfill promises made in 2006 to adequately fund schools. The state says no actual harm has been done to students by education cuts and that the state did its best to fund schools in the wake of the Great Recession. A ruling either way will have significant consequences. If the plaintiffs prevail, the state may be forced to take money away from other programs or initiatives – such as income tax cuts – to pay for schools. Some Republican lawmakers say they’re prepared to defy such a ruling.

CRIME AND PRISONS: Lawmakers are expected to debate proposals that would modify the state’s “Hard 50” prison sentence for certain murder cases, as well as amend the state’s capital murder statutes. The Department of Corrections is also expected to seek $26 million to ease overcrowding at the El Dorado prison.

PENSIONS: Kansas faces a nearly $10 billion shortfall in its public employee pension system. The gap represents the amount of money in the system compared to the benefits that have been promised to state employees, teachers and local government employees. Legislators enacted changes in 2012 aimed at closing the gap and requiring increased contributions by employees. Some legislators want additional changes to the pension program to reduce the liability sooner.

ELECTION YEAR: All statewide offices are on the ballot this year, as well as all 125 seats in the Kansas House. Senators will next stand election in 2016. House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, is seeking his party’s nomination and the right to challenge Brownback for the governor’s office in November. The two have sharp differences over taxes and the funding of essential state services.

NEW FACES: Seven House members are starting their first session in Topeka. The House and Senate both convene at 2 p.m. with brief remarks from House Speaker Ray Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle. The Senate is likely to read the appointment of Lindsborg Sen. Jay Emler who has been selected by Gov. Sam Brownback to fill a vacancy on the Kansas Corporation Commission. If confirmed, Emler would resign his Senate seat and a replacement would be appointed by local GOP officials. Republicans control both chambers with a 32-8 Senate advantage and 92-33 margin in the House.

Could Kansas School District’s Get More Money from Legislature?
February 21, 2012

From the Topeka Capital Journal:
In response to concerns from school districts “held harmless” under Gov. Sam Brownback’s school finance plan, Kansas lawmaker Steve Abrams introduced an amendment Monday that gives every district a bump — a $2.17 million bump in the case of USD 501.
“I’m trying to find a mechanism so that every school district gets new, added dollars,” Abrams told his Senate Education Committee colleagues Monday.
The governor’s plan would do away with extra funding for special categories of students and redistribute the money to every school district at a standard rate of $4,492 per pupil up from the current $3,780 by the 2013-14 school year.
His office has repeatedly emphasized that no district would receive less funding under the plan and about half the state’s school districts would receive more.
But the redistribution of funding for at-risk students including those who receive free-or-reduced-price lunch, English language learners and those who test below proficiency levels meant urban districts like Topeka that have the majority of the state’s students get no new money.
Abrams proposed keeping the governor’s new formula Monday but then adding a separate “at-risk” funding pool to be distributed based on poverty for students in grades K-3 and proficiency in grades 4-12.
“Those that are not proficient, they’re the ones that definitely need the help,” Abrams said after the hearing.