Kansas lawmakers took a significant step in the long-running school finance crisis over the weekend.
Gov. Jeff Colyer is expected to sign it.
No one seems completely happy with the outcome. Conservatives think it’s too much money, and a tax hike will be needed. Liberals and some moderates think it isn’t enough and won’t be spent quickly enough.
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No one knows what the Kansas Supreme Court will say. Some lawmakers believe the court will reject the plan, deepening the school crisis and ensuring a special session later this year.
We won’t prejudge the court. If the new bill is inadequate, lawmakers can try to find additional money later this year.
But passing an education bill doesn’t complete the Legislature’s work. When lawmakers gather April 26 for a wrap-up session, they must address several unresolved items:
▪ Wrongful conviction compensation. Kansas still doesn’t automatically provide financial reparations for those wrongfully convicted in its courts. That must end this year.
A conference committee is working on a bill. Lawmakers should approve it this year.
▪ Taxes. Saturday, the Senate passed a messy tax measure designed to neutralize the effects of federal tax reform in Kansas. The idea, Senate leaders said, was to return a tax “windfall” to taxpayers.
By one estimate, the bill would provide taxpayers $500 million over the next five years. It was a reckless vote, and the House should discard the bill.
If lawmakers are hell-bent on cutting taxes, they should use the additional revenue from federal tax reform to cut the state sales tax on food. That would give a tax break to Kansans who really need it.
▪ Transparency. Legislators still haven’t reformed their own practices — some bills are still anonymous, committee votes aren’t always recorded, gut-and-go is still a thing.
It’s unacceptable. Leadership is clearly hoping Kansans will lose interest in good government. They won’t.
We continue to believe an elected state auditor should be made part of the state’s constitution. Legislators can call for a November vote during the wrap-up session.
Other transparency concerns, including documentation related to child deaths and body camera footage, are also pending.
▪ Constitutional amendments. Lawmakers should walk away from any plan to remove courts from school funding decisions.
▪ Medicaid expansion. The Legislature has toyed with this proposal for years. It should accomplish the task in the wrap-up session.
▪ Budget. Legislators must finish work on an appropriations bill that will fund various state agencies.
Finishing these tasks won’t be easy. It will take skill to approach these and other issues in a wrap-up session that is scheduled to last for about a week.
But legislators should not leave Topeka with work to do. We urge them to finish these items in the short session to come.