The Legislature worked long hours over the weekend and yesterday. While they have reached agreement on a new school finance formula, they do not seem to have moved much closer to finding a tax plan to pay for it.
The House and Senate have now passed a school finance bill and sent it to the Governor. The bill creates a new formula which, by all accounts, resembles the formula which was decommissioned two years ago when the state started funding schools through the current block grant system. The block grants have, of course, since been determined to be unconstitutional. This latest K-12 funding plan raises $194 million for schools next year and another $100 million the year after that. The new formula targets at-risk students as the supreme court indicated it should. Lawmakers hope the supreme court will find it sufficient before the June 30 deadline after which funding for schools may be cut-off.
As for taxes, last Tuesday, the Senate passed its tax plan but the House promptly and resoundingly rejected it. So the rest of the week was spent trading ideas about taxes. There was not much in the way of full-fledged debate, though. Over the weekend, legislator leaders got the idea that maybe they could polish-off their tax problem at the same time they solved school finance by combining the two into one big bill. By Monday morning, the mega-bill was ready and the House commenced a spirited debate before kicking it to the curb by a vote of 32-91. Clearly, lawmakers would have to take separate votes on school finance and on taxes.
Once the school finance bill was safely off to the Governor for his signature, legislators got back to work on the tax plan to help pay for it. They went the extra mile yesterday and stayed late to pass a plan, which would have reinstituted a 3-bracket income tax system, raised rates on most earners and eliminated the LLC exemption. Then they settled in to wait wearily for the Governor’s reaction. They didn’t have to wait long. Within minutes after the Senate had voted, Governor Brownback issued a press release declaring his intention to veto the plan because, as he contended, it would, “…damage job creation and leave our citizens poorer in the future.”
The legislature called it a night/morning and decided to reconvene this afternoon. They will consider an effort to override the Governor’s veto but the tax bill did not garner enough votes to do that in either the House or the Senate. So they will stay in session and try to map-out another solution.
As they say on breaking news apps, this is a developing story.