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No easy options for fixing school finance, Kansas lawmakers are told

Rep. Blaine Finch, right, R-Ottawa, who chairs a special committee reviewing the Kansas Supreme Court's latest school finance decision, says there are no attractive options for coming up with another $600 million for public schools, either by raising taxes or cutting other spending.

— Some state officials are suggesting it could take at least another $600 million a year to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court's order for adequate and equitable public school funding, and officials told a group of Kansas lawmakers Monday there is no easy way to come up with that kind of money.

That's because $600 million represents about 9 percent of the entire state general fund budget. To come up with that kind of money, budget officials and state agency directors said, the Legislature either would have to pass another major tax increase, one year after passing a major income tax hike over Gov. Sam Brownback's veto, or make draconian cuts to other state agency budgets outside the K-12 system.

"I think that the committee has done a good job of putting together what we were asked to do — what are the consequences of quote-unquote 'compliance' with the court's decision — and as we saw today, many of those options are fairly ugly," Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa, who chairs the special committee, said during an interview following the panel's meeting Monday.

Chris Courtwright, an economist with the Legislature's nonpartisan research staff, said raising $600 million in income taxes would require a tax increase roughly equal in size to the one lawmakers passed during the 2017 session.

He also said it was difficult to predict how much of a sales tax increase it would take because Kansas is already at or near the top of the nation in terms of combined state and local sales taxes, and any further increase could send more retail shopping business across state lines.

The other major source of revenue for the state is a statewide property tax mill levy for schools. Sen. Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, pointed out that if previous Legislatures had left that property tax rate at 35 mills — or $322 in tax on a $100,000 home — instead of lowering it in the mid-1990s to the current 20 mills, the state would have the additional $600 million that many say it now needs.

That, however, would require passing a 75 percent increase in the state's property tax rate, something Hensley said he is not proposing.

Because K-12 education now makes up roughly one-half of the entire $6.5 billion state general fund budget, funding that kind of increase would require 18 percent across-the-board cuts in all other state agency spending, officials said.

At an earlier meeting of the special committee, major state agencies were asked to prepare estimates of what that would mean to their budgets, and on Monday several of those agencies responded.

At the Department of Corrections, for example, that could mean closing three state prisons and releasing roughly 2,500 inmates, according to Keith Bradshaw, the head of programs and finance for the agency. As one alternative, he said, the department could close two facilities, release 1,730 inmates and eliminate all funding for community corrections programs.

The court system would also take a major blow because much of its budget goes to pay for salaries, according to Stephanie Bunten, budget and fiscal officer for the judicial branch, and most of what isn't used for salaries is used to fund things required under state law.

In addition, she said, the Kansas Constitution does not allow the state to reduce a judge's salary during his or her term in office, so all salary reductions would have to apply to nonjudicial personnel. As a result, Bunten said, an 18 percent cut in the court system would mean closing the court system for roughly 70 working days during the year, or a little more than three months, something she said could affect criminal defendants' constitutional rights to speedy trials.

At the Department of Health and Environment, officials said an 18 percent cut would result in significant reductions in Medicaid services as well as public health programs such as venereal disease screening.

And at the Department for Children and Families, newly appointed Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel said a cut of that proportion would result in cutbacks in foster care contracts and the closure of eight DCF service centers, just to name a few impacts.

The state's higher education system would also take a major blow, according to Board of Regents president and CEO Blake Flanders. He told lawmakers an 18 percent cut would mean more than $136 million out of the state's colleges and universities, including $23.4 million from the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

Flanders noted that some people argue that colleges and universities can make up for budget cuts by raising tuition, but he said that would soon make it hard to recruit students from other states.

"We have to determine, are we going to starve the service and continue to try to operate, or are we going to end the service and start to really contract?" Flanders said. "With this kind of cut, I would expect — I don't know, but I would expect — that people would start ending services."

That testimony came on the same day that another legislator, Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, who is not a member of the committee, issued a statement saying he had pre-filed a proposed constitutional amendment that, if approved, would take away the court system's authority to decide school finance cases by handing over exclusive authority for public schools to locally elected school boards.

That proposal is a response to the Supreme Court's threat that it will shut down the public school system on July 1 if lawmakers do not pass a funding system that meets constitutional muster during the 2018 session.

"Our system of government has many checks and balances, this is just adding to that," Pyle said in a statement emailed to news outlets. "Giving locally elected school boards this authority over their schools will prevent court ordered unilateral school closure by the Topeka establishment. Local school boards need this tool to keep their doors open and to fight further consolidation."

But Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, said she sees little point in debating a constitutional amendment, and she wants to focus on how to provide schools with the funding they need.

"My takeaway is it makes the case for thoughtful, phased-in funding over a multi-year period, because we cannot as a state afford cuts that deep over a small period of time, so that's what I think we made the case for today," Rooker said.

Comments

Richard Heckler

There is an existing source of tax dollars for public education.

Cut off the reckless pool of funding known as corporate welfare that is a tax dollar money hole that does not pay back.

Cut off the funding that is supporting voter suppression in Kansas that is against the law.

What Kansas does need is an audit reviewing where public education tax dollars
have gone? Yes where is this money?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Richard Heckler

--- More Proof Brownback Tax Cuts Are Not Working
http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/edi...

--- New jobs report shows Brownback tax cut promises still failing
http://www.kansascity.com/opinion/opn...

--- Brownback Tax Cuts Now Full Blown Disaster for Kansas
http://www.kansascity.com/2014/05/30/...

4 months, 1 week ago

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Richard Heckler

Worker's taxes siphoned off by their bosses
http://www.jimhightower.com/node/7723...

What’s the matter with Kansas Schools?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dennis-...

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/08/opi...

4 months, 1 week ago

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Richard Heckler

The Brownback administration used workers' withholding taxes to bribe AMC Entertainment with a $47 million payment to move its headquarters from downtown Kansas City, Missouri, to a KC suburb on the Kansas side, just 10 miles away. What a ripoff!

http://www.jimhightower.com/node/7723...

After the $47 million in corporate welfare AMC was sold off to a chinese conglomerate. Where are the $47 million tax dollars?

Gov Sam Brownback Brings Supply Side Economics to Kansas by way of his friend Arthur Laffer
Read more: http://business.time.com/2012/08/09/a...

4 months, 1 week ago

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Richard Heckler

--- Rosy Kansas Revenue Numbers Don’t Add Up
Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/29/...

--- New Study Rips Kansas Tax Cuts
http://www.kansascity.com/2014/03/27/...

4 months, 1 week ago

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Bob Summers

Which is it.

More money makes teachers inculcate harder or better?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Ken Lassman

Better, hopefully, and ideally, more wisely because they can hire better teachers.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Since we have a shortage of 1500 teachers, I think the funding would probably make a education a whole lot better.

4 months ago

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Richard Heckler

ALEC controlled state government is a failure across the board. Too bad the GOP is controlled by ALEC.

Medicaid application delays are forcing Kansas nursing homes to turn ...
www.kansascity.com/news/business/heal...

3 days ago - A backlog of Medicaid applications has delayed payments to Kansas nursing homes for years. Now some homes have decided they can't take new residents.
Nursing homes hesitate to take dying patients awaiting KanCare ...
cjonline.com/news/.../nursing-homes-hesitate-take-dying-patients-awaiting-kancare

Dec 3, 2017 - A long-running backlog of Medicaid applications has hit the bottom lines of Kansas nursing homes in recent years. Beneficiaries of Kansas' privatized ... “ That's been the biggest issue is they don't want to take on that financial risk because they just haven't been getting paid,” Bell said. Nursing homes have ...
Kansas Medicaid application backlog climbs again – Kansas Health ...
www.khi.org/news/article/kansas-medic...

Dec 19, 2016 - The facility has turned to the Catholic Archdiocese for financial support because of delays in the Kansas Medicaid application process. ... Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit, because about half of Kansans in nursing homes rely on Medicaid to pay for long-term care after their savings run out, ...
Kansas Increases Advance Payments As Medicaid Backlog Continues ...
kcur.org/post/kansas-increases-advance-payments-medicaid-backlog-continues

Jan 13, 2017 - Rodney Whittington, CEO of Villa St. Francis in Olathe, says Medicaid coverage delays would have sunk his nursing home if not for the financial backing of the Catholic Church. Andy Marso / Kansas News Service. The Brownback administration has increased advance payments to nursing homes while a ...Kansas Nursing Homes Struggle To Cope With Medicaid Processing ...
kcur.org/post/kansas-nursing-homes-struggle-cope-medicaid-processing-backlogs

Mar 4, 2016 - “It is such a huge pressing issue for, as I understand it, all the nursing facilities in Kansas,” Kregar said in a phone interview last week. “Anyone who has Medicaid residents, we are all frustrated.” For months the processing system for Medicaid in Kansas, a privatized program known as KanCare, has been ...
Missing: hits

Kansas Medicaid backlog is growing once again | HPPR
hppr.org/post/kansas-medicaid-backlog-growing-once-again

Dec 20, 2016 - Delays in processing Medicaid applications in Kansas have put financial strain on nursing homes and threatened coverage for thousands of Kansans and the. ... Nursing homes have been among the hardest hit because about half of residents rely on Medicaid to pay for long-term care, and those kinds of issues.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Richard Heckler

This consulting firm handpicks local, state, and federal candidates who share the Kochs' free-market, limited-government agenda, and groom them to win elections.

"We seek out electable advocates of the freedom and opportunity agenda who will be forceful at both the policy and political levels," the company notes on its website.

Aegis says it can manage every aspect of a campaign, including advertising, direct mail, social media, and fundraising.

Aegis' president is Jeff Crank, a two-time failed Republican congressional candidate who ran the Colorado chapter of Americans for Prosperity and served as the chief operating officer of the national organization. The firm's six-person staff boasts two others with connections to the Kochs.

The group's lead strategist is Karl Crow, a former project coordinator for the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, where he focused "on how political advocates for economic freedom are identified, trained, and promoted," according to his bio on Aegis' website.

Crow, who was scheduled to speak at an invite-only Koch donor summit in 2010 on the subject of voter mobilization, subsequently worked for Themis, the Koch brothers' voter microtargeting operation. Brad Stevens, the former state director for Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska, is Aegis' director of candidate identification.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2...

4 months, 1 week ago

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Steve King

Well Bob, yes. The best people cost more. Simple reality. Practiced in the business world every day. You're the best in your Trade right? You deserve more money than some HS dropout right? Same with those Educators with Grad and Under Grad degrees. They start seeing their wages and benifits cut. Their protections cut. Scabs without degrees or Certificates taking their jobs. The educational quality of our future citizens/leaders diminished. Yes, if you want the best it costs more.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Josh Berg

The only option outside of raising taxes is passing a Constitutional Amendment to change the wording so that the KS Supreme Court cannot force this spending.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Steve Jacob

Still say the Court has shown already it does not have the guts to close school because of the under funding.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Bob Smith

Throwing more money into a failing system without addressing the causes of that failure is a mug's game. So is throwing unrelated links against the wall to see if anything will stick.

4 months, 1 week ago

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P Allen Macfarlane

Where is the data that demonstrates a "failing system"?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Steve King

Can you be more specific Bob? What are the "causes of that failure"?

4 months, 1 week ago

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Calvin Anders

All of the options discussed in this article are designed to inspire fear in the electorate. Rather than look at each option by itself and examine how awful it would be if it was the only thing done, why not look at a holistic approach that carves some money from one area and some from another? This whole discussion would be very different if we were talking about smaller raises in income tax, smaller raises in property tax and a few targeted cuts in other spending. How about raising taxes on larger businesses? And getting rid of some of those mysterious tax incentive giveaways that aren't disclosed to the public? Maybe pulling back a little on all the consulting and legal fees the state pays out to Brownback cronies? The legislature is trying to scare the public rather than figure out a smart, balanced solution. They need to stop trying to figure out how to not fix the problem and start fixing it. They need to do what they were elected to do.

4 months, 1 week ago

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Richard Heckler

Mainstreet Coalition FYI - a source of interest backing voter rights, public education, sensible taxation, women’s rights and moderate candidates.

Offers up suggestions from both sides of the aisle based on best candidate.

=== See who Mainstreet Coalition has endorsed.
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=== THIS IS ANOTHER SOURCE OF INTEREST :
http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2...

4 months ago

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed

Go ahead and try and pass a constitutional amendment getting you out of your obligations. People in Kansas have always supported public schools. If the his amendment fails, do you think he'll shut up? Probably not.

4 months ago

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