Kansas lawmakers end session, await court ruling on schools
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators adjourned their annual session Monday to wait for a state Supreme Court ruling on education funding later this summer that will tell them whether their work for the year is really finished.
The House and Senate met briefly on their 114th day, tying a record for session length set in 2015. Lawmakers earlier this month passed a plan to boost education funding and enacted an income tax increase over Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto.
Brownback complained in a post-adjournment statement that this year’s session was historic “for all the wrong reasons,” decrying legislators’ bipartisan decision to close budget shortfalls and provide extra money for public schools by largely rolling back past income tax cuts he has championed. The tax increase is expected to raise $1.2 billion over two years.
“This session marks a drastic departure from fiscal restraint,” Brownback said. “I trust that future legislatures will return to a pro-growth orientation.”
The governor also chided legislators for what he described as excessive spending, though he did not use his power to veto individual budget items to trim it significantly.
Brownback’s fellow Republicans view the term-limited governor as a candidate for an ambassador’s post in President Donald Trump’s administration and expect him to step down well before his term ends in January 2019.
Many lawmakers also are looking ahead to the Kansas Supreme Court’s review of the new school funding law.
The justices plan to hear arguments from attorneys July 18, and lawyers for four school districts that sued the state over education funding in 2010 have argued that the new law isn’t enough to fund a suitable education for every child. The court ruled in March that the state’s $4 billion a year in aid to its 286 school districts is inadequate.
The new law phases in a $293 million increase in education funding over two years. Democrats have predicted that the court will require a bigger increase and force legislators to have a special session later this summer. While the Kansas Association of School Boards argues that the increase should be larger, lobbyist Mark Tallman said it represents a good start.
And Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said, “We want to meet the needs of our students, and clearly, I believe, the funding is adequate.”
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