What’s Susan Wagle thinking these days?
“Why would the court deliver us this timing?” Wagle told a Wichita audience. “Do you think that maybe they would like to elect a Democrat governor so they can have more Democrat appointees to the Supreme Court?”
Never mind the obvious conclusion that this kind of sentiment is wholly unhelpful at a time when lawmakers are faced with the possibility of spending several hundred million dollars more next year to satisfy the order. No question the ruling could have a sharp impact on next year’s elections.
But if anything, votes to raise taxes in the 2018 session will come from responsible Democrats and moderate Republicans who would be the ones to pay a price at the polls. Conservative Republicans — the camp where Wagle resides — might actually benefit.
What Wagle is up to is an ongoing conservative crusade to build support for a favored cause: a constitutional amendment aimed at ending the requirement that the Legislature provide “suitable” school funding. That means, apparently, that she prefers a Constitution that calls for “ill-suited” education appropriations.
Let’s be clear: This campaign for a constitutional change is going nowhere. Kansas’ rich heritage of quality public schools binds people of all political persuasions. What’s more, changing the constitution would require a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate (which won’t happen) and a vote of the people (which wouldn’t happen either).
Wagle told her audience that the court’s latest ruling is “absolutely unaffordable” and even unobtainable. To be sure, the cost could be as much as $600 million, on top of the $485 million over two years that lawmakers just tossed into the education kitty at the court’s behest.
But the numbers don’t lie: Kansas has been underfunding its schools for years.
The court’s ruling was unanimous. It’s also only fair to point out that Wagle wasn’t complaining in 2012 when Brownback signed tax cuts that were to cost the treasury $2.9 billion over five years.
Wagle said it would immoral for her to vote for a tax increase for additional school funding when other state services are hurting. But Wagle herself this year proposed a 2 percent across-the-board cut in spending, which her fellow senators rejected.
Wagle and other Kansas leaders must face the constitutional reality that another boost in school spending must occur, as contrary it may be to their conservative principles.
Earth to Wagle: Wake up.