Lawmakers could raise taxes to fund public schools

TOPEKA, Kan (KSNT)  –  If the Kansas Supreme Court forces the Kansas Legislature to spend more money on public schools, some lawmakers believe that will mean another tax increase. The court gave lawmakers until the end of June to address school funding or schools will close on July 1. Lawmakers passed a budget over the weekend that some believe has no wiggle room for cuts to fund schools further.

“There is no place to cut. The only way we did it was to steal from KPERS and the pulled money investment board and the Children Initiative’s Fund. We just swept every nickel we could find to balance our budgets over the last five years. There are no more funds like that,” said Sen. Laura Kelly (D-Topeka).

Last week, lawmakers passed an income tax increase that raises $1.2 billion over two years. Still, Kelly said that taxes are lower than they were before Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 tax cuts. Kelly and other lawmakers believe they will most likely need to raise taxes closer to those levels to fund schools if the proposal is struck down.

Kelly expects the court will have a response to their proposal sometime next week. While she voted for it, she said she wanted to make sure the court had a proposal sooner rather than later. Kelly believes there is a good chance the court could strike it down. Some lawmakers are more optimistic.

“I certainly think the formula is constitutional. The court will have to way in on that, but I think we did a good job of putting the pieces together. The issue will be the funding amount. I think looking into the future that’s the part we may need to address again,” said Rep. Fred Patton (R-Topeka).

Patton serves on the House K-12 Education Budget committee and helped come up with the school funding formula. He believes the court will ultimately let their school funding bill stand

Brownback has until June 19th to either sign or veto the legislature’s school funding proposal before it goes into law. It adds nearly $300 million to public school funding and would expire in 2027.

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