July 20, 2024

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Colyer Calls on Legislature to Adopt Plan That May Require Tax Increase

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Gov. Jeff Colyer is calling on lawmakers to adopt a Kansas House school financing plan that would add $500 million to public schools over the next five years. He says it can be done without increasing taxes, but his top rival in the race for Kansas Governor, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, calls that a “pipe dream.”

“With strong fiscal leadership, $500 million is affordable and sustainable without a tax increase on Kansas families,” Colyer said in a statement.

The Kobach campaign says the spending plan will force Kansas further into financial crisis.

“This will inevitably lead to another tax increase–something Kobach will never support,” Moriah Day, a spokesperson for the Kobach campaign, said.

Lawmakers appear to be deadlocked as a conference committee attempts to hash out differences between the House’s school finance plan and the Senate’s. The Senate’s bill would increase spending by $275 million over five years, a number House members worry will not be enough to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court. Legislators face two deadlines. The legislative session is set to adjourn by midnight tonight, and the Court, in its last school financing opinion, gave legislators an April 30th deadline to craft a new financing plan.

Colyer said the time to act is now.

“Kansas students, teachers, and families need to know their schools will remain open and be funded adequately and equitably,” Colyer said in a statement this morning.

Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, said a profile from the Kansas Legislative Research Department reveals legislators would need to ignore state statute in order to increase school funding by $500 million without a tax hike.

“The only way it works is if you don’t comply with state law and you transfer $1.2 billion out of the highway fund,” Trabert said.

Gov. Jeff Colyer is calling on lawmakers to adopt a Kansas House school financing plan that would add $500 million to public schools over the next five years. He says it can be done without increasing taxes, but his top rival in the race for Kansas Governor, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, calls that a “pipe dream.”

State law requires that the state shows an ending balance of 7.5 percent of operating funds. Shawn Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer for the state, says the state’s ending balance has only met that requirement twice in the last 10 years.

According to a KLRD profile requested by Rep. Kyle Hoffman, the House’s $500 million cash injection would require a $306 million tax increase next year followed by $215 million in tax increases in the following three years.

“We can make this work without a tax increase,” Sullivan says.

First, he says, new revenue estimates will be released after April 20. Sullivan believes the estimates will notch higher. Right now, revenue is beating projections by about $300 million. Sullivan says some of that is due to timing, but he believes new estimates will reasonably show the state ending the year with more than $100 million than currently projected.

“It’s also a reasonable assumption that the Trump economy will continue to improve tax collections compared to what they’ve been in the last 8 years,” he says.

Trabert contends making the House plan work without a tax increase still requires sweeping more than a billion from the highway fund.

“The plan not only assumes everything goes right. It assumes everything goes really well, and we violate state law, and we empty the highway fund,” Trabert says. “..They want to violate that state law to give more money to school districts with an average 19 percent ending balance.”

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