A new charge on utility bills would pay for new funding for Kansas schools under a proposal from a top Republican lawmaker.
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning said Friday that he wants to charge residential customers an extra $3 a month each on electric, gas and water for an increase of $9 a month. He estimated that would help raise $150 million a year.
Commercial customers would pay an extra $10 a month on each bill, said Denning, an Overland Park Republican.
“If the body’s willing to look at that, that would be the funding source for schools,” Denning said.
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Lawmakers will return to work Monday, with school finance high on their list. They face a June 30 deadline from the Kansas Supreme Court to enact a new funding system.
The court ruled earlier this year that funding is inadequate. The justices cited data showing 25 percent of Kansas students are underperforming.
The only plan now under consideration in the Legislature calls for $750 million more for schools over the next five years. The plan does not specify where the money would come from.
Denning said he thinks that’s too high but that he would support $100 million to $150 million more next year.
Asked if he was concerned if people would be able to stomach that kind of utility increase each month, Denning said: “They’re going to have to stomach some increase any way you cut it, right?”
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat, said the increase could be difficult for those on fixed incomes.
“That is a very regressive way to fund schools,” he said.