Kansas Senate approves $230M boost in school aid

Steve Fitzgerald Molly Baumgardner

Steve Fitzgerald Molly Baumgardner

Mary Pilcher-Cook argued the law was necessary because "abortion is ugly and evil" and that women seeking them are often "acting under coercion or ignorance", Democratic lawmakers and reproductive rights advocates who oppose the law said it just the latest attempt by right-wing lawmakers to impose their religious views on the state's female population by making access to abortion even harder than it already is.

Loss of income tax revenue and slumping oil and agriculture markets left the state with an anticipated shortfall of almost $900 million through July 2019.

Brownback touts the past tax cuts as pro-growth policies, but the state struggled to balance its budget after they were enacted and following later slumps in agriculture and energy production.

The House has a rival plan to phase in a $285 million increase in aid to the state's 286 school districts over two years.

The bill the Senate passed Tuesday raises more than $1.2 billion over the next two fiscal years, in part by ending Brownback's tax exemption for roughly 330,000 business owners and boosting income tax rates. Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine, a moderate Emporia Republican, said "we need a massive tax increase" to cover budget gaps and comply with the court's mandate on education funding.

Once they finished debate, senators ended where they began: an additional $234 million over two years for K-12 education. The alternative would be to pass a plan with smaller income tax increases and a mix of other revenue-raising measure that the governor would sign.

Democrats joined with moderate Republicans and some members of Senate Republican leadership to move the bill across the line, but the vote total is short of the 27 votes that would be needed to override a veto by Brownback. It's now about $4 billion a year.

Ultimately it was approved by the Senate, but rejected by the House by a margin of 37-85. The Senate planned to consider the new plan, possibly Tuesday night. That is $50 million less than the House plan that the Kansas State Department of Education now says would add $284 million in new money over two years and then increase funding according to the rate of inflation.

The Senate voted 23-17 against his proposal. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, tried unsuccessfully to use a procedural maneuver to kill the measure.

"We have roughly nine school districts that are under 100 students".

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said overall funding levels in the Senate and House bills were insufficient to survive scrutiny by the Supreme Court in terms of adequate and equitable upgrades in state aid.

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