Political News

The Latest: Kansas Senate panel OKs bill to end tax break

Posted May 8

— The Latest on the Kansas Legislature's debate over school funding, the state's budget problems and raising taxes to address both issues (all times local):

5 p.m.

A Kansas Senate committee has approved a bill that would repeal a tax break for farmers and business owners championed by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback as a pro-growth policy.

The Assessment and Taxation Committee's action Monday sends the measure to the Senate for debate. But the bill doesn't come close to closing projected budget shortfalls totaling $887 million through June 2019 or providing additional funds for public schools.

The bill ends an exemption granted in 2012 that allows more than 330,000 farmers and business owners to avoid personal income taxes on their profits. Critics contend the policy is unfair to wage-earners.

The measure is expected to raise $256 million over two years. It has bipartisan support but Democrats and GOP moderates say it's only a part of a budget fix.

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4:15 p.m.

An attorney hired by the Kansas Legislature to help members as they draft a new school finance law is encouraging them to provide for annual increases in education funding.

Former state Sen. Jeff King of Independence told senators Monday that he believes annual adjustments based on inflation or some other factor are "vital" to satisfying the Kansas Supreme Court.

The court ruled in March that the state's education funding is inadequate and gave lawmakers until June 30 to enact a new school funding law. Legislative leaders hired King to advise them.

The Senate had an informal question-and-answer session with King for 90 minutes.

He also said it would be helpful for lawmakers to boost funding for pre-kindergarten programs and set up a system for monitoring how well students perform academically.

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1:55 p.m.

Kansas legislators acknowledge that they're not sure a public school funding plan they're considering would satisfy the state Supreme Court.

A special House committee began Monday to debate a proposal that would phase in a $762 million increase in state aid to public schools over five years.

Lawmakers are responding to a Supreme Court ruling in March that the state's education funding is inadequate. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed in 2010 by four school districts. The court gave legislators until June 30 to pass a new school finance law.

House committee members said they're focused on making sure that a new law distributes state funds fairly and helps the state's lowest-performing students.

An attorney for the four districts said the House panel's plan isn't adequate.

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10:43 a.m.

An attorney representing school districts that successfully sued Kansas over education funding says a school finance plan being considered by lawmakers is inadequate.

John Robb made his comments Monday as a special House committee prepared to debate the proposal. Robb represents the Dodge City, Hutchinson, Wichita and Kansas City, Kansas, districts.

The plan before the House committee would phase in a $750 million increase in the state's $4 billion-plus in aid over five years.

Robb sees a State Board of Education proposal to phase in an $893 million increase over two years as adequate.

The districts Robb represents sued Kansas in 2010. The state Supreme Court ruled in March that the state's education funding is inadequate.

The justices gave legislators until June 30 to pass a new school finance law.

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