School Finance Actions & Brownback 2.0

Mar 15, 2019 by

Senate passes response to Gannon decision

Kansas Supreme Court Lobby

The Kansas Senate debated SB 142, a school finance bill that responds to the Gannon decision by increasing school funding by about $90 million and carries that increase forward through the life of the plans passed in 2017 and 2018. In later years, funding would continue to increase by the CPI inflation factor. This action adopts the recommendation of the Kansas State Board of Education and is the same recommendation that was in SB 44, Governor Laura Kelly’s school funding bill.

The bill was advanced to a final action and then adopted under an emergency provision on a final action vote of 32 to 8. KNEA supports this action. We believe that it is past time for the legislature to act and, while there are disagreements on whether this is what the Kansas Supreme Court justices intended in their ruling, it is appropriate at this time to pass the bill and send this response to the justices for their consideration. We hope the House will take up and pass this bill as quickly as possible.

Those Senators who voted NO on the school finance bill were Republicans Larry Alley (Winfield), Dan Kerschen (Garden Plain), Ty Masterson (Andover), Mary Pilcher-Cook (Shawnee), Dennis Pyle (Hiawatha), Caryn Tyson (Parker), and Susan Wagle (Wichita).

The Senate still has to take action on the rest of the K-12 budget which is now contained in SB 147 which is in the Ways and Means Committee. We urge the Senate to pass SB 147 as well.

House committee starts hearing their alternative school finance bill

Rep. Kristey Williams, House K-12 Budget Committee Chair

House K-12 Budget Chair Kristey Williams has brought forward her school finance bill – HB 2395 – and opened hearings on it. This bill is radically different from the Senate’s plan in SB 142.

While the Senate builds on the actions of the 2017 and 2018 actions, HB 2395 sharply reverses course. Instead of funding schools out for four years and providing increases in each year, the House bill cuts out the third and fourth years. The bill also repeals the provision in current law that increases funding to schools by a CPI inflation factor in the future.

While the Senate puts the increase on base aid, supporting all students and programs, HB 2395 puts less on base and puts some in a new mental health weighting and a small, restricted increase in at-risk funding. The bill also repeals the state’s commitment to reimbursing 92% of the excess costs of special education and cuts students off of bilingual weighting if they are not fluent in English in four years.

HB 2395 also enacts a voucher program and makes changes to the tuition tax credit (voucher) program to encourage more elementary children to leave the public schools under certain conditions.

There are numerous other policy changes in the bill to accountability requirements, to bidding capital projects, to developing budgets, and to collecting and reporting data. In fact, it reads almost like an ultra-conservative wish list. Many of these policy changes have been proposed many times in the past and but never adopted by the legislature.

KNEA strongly opposes this bill. The legislature has a simple job to do – fund the inflation factor and leave the formula – which has been deemed to be constitutional – alone. That’s what the Senate is working on. That’s what the House should do too.

During the first day of a scheduled two-day hearing Mark Desetti of KNEA, Tom Witt of Equality Kansas, Mark Tallman of KASB, and G.A Buie of United School Administrators all testified in opposition to the Williams committee bill. There were many other organizations and individual school districts submitting written testimony in opposition.

At this time we know of no proponents planning to appear and have heard that several groups may appear as neutral. This hearing will continue on Monday, March 18, and Committee Chair Kristey Williams has announced her intention to vote on the bill next week while making it clear she has no intention of hearing any other funding bills.

HB 2395 is the wrong answer to the Gannon decision and includes many bad policy ideas that will harm students and schools.


Contact members of the committee and ask them to reject HB 2395 and instead adopt the Senate’s plan in SB 142.


Members of the committee are Republicans Kristey Williams, Kyle Hoffman, Brenda Dietrich, Renee Erickson, Steve Huebert, Brenda Landwehr, Adam Smith, Sean Tarwater, and Adam Thomas. The Democrats are Valdenia Winn, Cindy Holscher, Nancy Lusk, and Jim Ward.


CLICK HERE to contact these representatives.

Senate adopts Brownback 2.0 tax plan

Former Governor Sam Brownback

The Senate voted on a motion to concur in the House changes to SB 22, the corporate tax giveaway bill that was expanded by the House.

As the bill originally passed the Senate it would provide about $190 million in tax cuts aimed at multi-national corporations and wealthy individuals. Passage of the bill represents a partial return to the failed tax policies of former Governor Sam Brownback. While in office, he was devoted to “trickle-down economics” under which the state grants massive tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations in the hope that the benefit will “trickle down” to working men and women in the form of more jobs and higher wages.

Instead, the Kansas state budget collapsed, services were cut, and desperate measures to balance the budget had to be enacted resulting in hikes in the sales tax, the devastation of the state highway plan, and the diversion of KPERS payments. Those service cuts have brought Kansas a compromised foster care system, prison riots, and crumbling infrastructure.

When SB 22 went across the rotunda, the House not only endorsed the cuts in the Senate version, they added a small reduction in the food sales tax (one cent) and a provision intended to force more online retailers to collect and remit sales tax. Despite the internet sales tax provision, the cost of the bill to the state budget went up even more.

While we believe a action on the food sales tax is needed in order to help low-income families, this bill is not the way to make that happen. Kansas needs to fund our schools, restore vital services decimated by the 2012 tax cuts, and balance the budget. Once we have fully recovered, it is appropriate to examine our entire tax structure to make it balanced across all tax sources and fair to both businesses and individuals.

In 2017, the Legislature reversed most of the Brownback disaster and today the state is in recovery. As we fight to address the disastrous fallout of the Brownback policy, the last thing Kansas needs to do is start taking up more large tax cuts aimed at the wealthy and corporations. Trickle down doesn’t work! It’s time to stop pretending that it ever will.

The Senate voted to accept (concur in) the House changes to the bill on a vote of 24 to 16. With this action the bill now goes to Governor Kelly who is expected to veto it. It would take 27 votes in the Senate and 84 in the House to override a veto.

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Wasn’t that a mighty storm?

Feb 8, 2019 by

One storm was on the Senate floor

Senate President, Susan Wagle

The tax debate storm hit the Senate floor Wednesday night as the ice was moving in on most of the rest of Kansas. And frankly, some of the exchanges in the debate were a tad icy as well!

Senate President and self-appointed chair of the Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Code Implementation Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) brought her pet project, Senate Bill 22, to the floor for debate. While Wagle has tried to portray her bill as real help for working Kansans, it is in reality a large corporate tax giveaway with little benefit for individual tax filers and no relief to working families.

We’ve been reporting on this bill as it was discussed in Committee but just to review, here are the facts in a nutshell:

  • It decouples the Kansas income tax code from the federal income tax code,
  • It stops retroactively the collection of Kansas income taxes on overseas earnings by multi-national corporations through the repatriation of overseas earnings,
  • It protects multi-national corporations from paying additional Kansas income taxes under the GILTI tax provisions,
  • It allows individual tax filers who will not longer itemize on their federal taxes due to the increase in the standard deduction to continue to itemize on their Kansas income tax forms

The bill has an estimated fiscal note of $192 million with $137 million of the benefit going to the multi-national corporations. $54 million would go to Kansas individual taxpayers who cannot itemize on federal taxes but would benefit by doing so on state taxes.

In the debate Sen. Wagle noted that 9% of Kansas tax filers can continue to itemize under the federal law and see a tax decrease under the Trump tax cut. Those 9%, the wealthiest Kansans, get no benefit from SB 22.

Another 9% of Kansans will see a tax benefit by no longer itemizing on their federal taxes and will see a modest tax increase in Kansas as a result. This 9% of Kansas tax filers will get a small benefit from SB 22.

The other 82% of Kansas tax filers – those working families and low income workers – get no benefit at all. Talking about this bill as tax relief for working Kansans is just not right. It really only benefits the wealthiest individuals and multi-national corporations.

What the bill will do, especially coupled with Senate Bill 9, is to drain much of the state treasury before a budget can be adopted making it much harder for Governor Kelly to address school finance, the failing foster care system, highway maintenance, health care, and the mess in our prison system. This bill is essentially a cynical political attempt to hamstring the Governor.

The only amendment considered last night was offered by Senator Dennis Pyle (R-Hiawatha). The Pyle amendment would have exempted social security income from state income taxes. Pyle asserted that retirees are fleeing Kansas seeking homes in those states that don’t tax social security. Pyle also admitted he had no research or data to prove his point. His amendment received only five votes. Pyle had asked for a roll call vote but failed to get five senators to support him on that.

Senator Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City) moved to send the bill back to committee with the intent of splitting the corporate and individual tax provisions and considering alternatives to simply decoupling from the federal code. His motion failed on a vote of 12 – 28 with Senator Mary Jo Taylor (R-Stafford) joining the Democrats in supporting the motion.

In the end the bill was advanced to final action on a voice vote.

Overnight storm closes almost everything…but not the Statehouse

While most of Northeast Kansas was closed due to a nasty ice storm and a dusting of snow on top of slick roads, Wagle announced that the Legislature would open so she could get her bill voted on final action.

In explanations of vote, Senator Bollier (D-Mission Hills) noted that the bill was fiscally irresponsible, that the fiscal note was speculative, and that the budget should be settled before considering tax changes. Senator Hensley said, “Kansans made it clear they don’t want more irresponsible policy when they elected Laura Kelly.”

“For the cost of this bill,” said Hensley, “the food sales tax could be cut in half.”

Republican Senator Mary Jo Taylor voted NO and suggested that the Legislature should first address their responsibilities before considering this bill.

In the end the bill was adopted on final action on a vote of 26 to 14. Senators John Doll (I-Garden City), John Skubal (R-Overland Park), and Mary Jo Taylor (R-Stafford) joined all 11 Democrats in voting no. The bill must now go through hearings and votes in the House before it can go to the Governor for signature or veto.

Governor’s school finance plan hearings in Senate Ed Finance Committee

Senate Bill 44 is currently in the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance. The hearing on the bill began yesterday and will continue on Tuesday next week.

This week many superintendents from around Kansas testified in favor of the bill, as one might expect. But the most notable testimony came from Schools for Fair Funding (SFFF), representing the Gannon lawsuit districts.

SFFF told the committee that should the Legislature pass SB 44 without amendment and with no changes to the school finance formula, they would stipulate to the Court that the solution met the funding needs of schools providing the Court retained jurisdiction in order to ensure that future Legislatures do not renege on the promises made in this legislation.

Senator Denning (R-Overland Park) pressed SFFF repeatedly on this issue to make it clear that the bill would be acceptable despite the fact that the inflation factor used in the bill – and recommended by the Kansas State Board of Education – is somewhat lower than the actual CPI.

We will see if this information has an impact. If adopted as is with no changes to the formula, SB 44 could actually end the Gannon school finance lawsuit.

This hearing will continue next week when KASB, KNEA, Game on for Kansas Schools, and the PTA will testify in favor. The only opponent will be the Kansas Policy Institute who consistently asserts that schools have more than enough funding right now and are failing.

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On a mission to wreck the Governor’s budget? Pass Brownback 2.0.

Feb 5, 2019 by

Brownback-style tax bill up this week in Senate

Susan Wagle & Sam Brownback

Senate Bill 22, the tax bill created and rammed through committee by Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), will be debated on the Senate floor this week.

If passed, this bill will take Kansas back to the Brownback tax disaster of 2012 – 2017 when revenues to the state treasury plummeted, schools and all other state services were slashed, the state’s credit rating was repeatedly downgraded, and we were on brink of fiscal collapse. Luckily voters sent a new Legislature to Topeka in 2017 and they worked quickly to reverse the so-called “tax experiment.” Since then revenues have been rebounding and Kansas is now at the point where we can begin to rebuild our state.

Wagle’s bill is estimated to reduce revenue by $191.6 million immediately with almost all of the benefits going to corporations. Another part of the bill would allow wealthier individuals to continue itemizing deductions and would provide those individuals with a small tax reduction. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates that only about 11% of individual taxpayers earning less than $111,000 would benefit from being able to itemize on their Kansas tax return. Even the section of Senate Bill 22 intended to benefit individual taxpayers is highly skewed to benefit the wealthiest Kansans!

In a recently written op-ed authored by Wagle, she asserts that SB 22 “will return the unexpected windfall from federal tax reform back to Kansas families.” Nothing could be further from the truth. The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates that of the $191.6 million in “returned” taxes, $137.2 million would go to corporations while only $54.4 million would to to individual taxpayers with the vast majority of that money going to the wealthiest individuals. SB 22 is not about helping Kansas families – it is about benefiting large corporations. It’s just the newest version of the Brownback tax experiment.

Senate advances bill to send $115 million to KPERS

On Monday, the Senate advanced SB 9 to final action on a voice vote. The bill was adopted on final action on Tuesday and now goes to the House for consideration.

Senate Bill 9 would repay $115 million to KPERS this year – money that was withheld by the Legislature in an attempt to balance the budget in a prior session.

While we are happy to see legislators who have willingly voted to decrease and withhold KPERS contributions over the years suddenly come to the conclusion that those actions were wrong and need to be rectified, it is hard to see this action as anything more than an attempt to remove as much money as possible from the state treasury in order to prevent Governor Laura Kelly from achieving her budget prioriteis.

Kelly’s budget includes money to satisfy the Supreme Court order on school finance, to expand Medicaid in order to provide health care to 150,000 uninsured Kansans, repair and restore the state’s disastrous foster care system, and give state employees a long overdue pay increase. By depleting the treasury, her goals become far more difficult. It will make it much easier for conservatives to argue that Medicaid, pay raises, and hiring more case workers at the Department for Children and Families are unaffordable. (We assume they still want to address the school funding fix, but we’ll see!)

Just to put this in a little historical context, in FY 2015, 2016, and 2017, the Legislature reduced the statutory rate for KPERS payments, putting less into the system. In FY 2016 they reduced payments to KPERS by $97 million, promising to pay it back with interest and then reneging on that promise. In FY 2017 they reduced payments to KPERS by $64.1 million and scheduled the repayment over 20 years. In FY 2019 they reduced KPERS school contributions by $194 million and scheduled repayment over 20 years.

So again, while we are glad to see that so many conservatives who repeatedly voted to under-fund KPERS have suddenly had an epiphany, we remain skeptical of their motives.

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House Saves the Day; Kills Corporate Tax Giveaway & Tax Cuts for the Rich

May 7, 2018 by

Later this week, we will provide a more comprehensive review of the 2018 Legislative Session but for today, we talk about the taxing events of Thursday and Friday, May 3 and 4.

Two highly controversial bills dominated the discussion for these two days. One was Sub for SB 284, a bill enacting the so-called “Adoption Protection Act.” (We will report on this bill later.) The other was Sub for HB 2228, the Senate’s large corporate tax giveaway and tax cut for the wealthiest Kansans.

Both were contained in Conference Committee Reports (CCR). So you understand the order of business, a conference committee report on a Senate bill goes first to the House for action while a conference committee report on a House bill goes first to the Senate. Conference committee reports cannot be amended. There is a motion to adopt the CCR which is debated and then voted on. Both chambers must adopt the report for it to go to the Governor for his signature or veto.

Because of the controversial nature of both reports and the fact that they were running almost simultaneously, it meant the atmosphere under the dome was tense.

The tax bill (Sub for HB 2228) was really the brainchild of Senate leadership, in particular, Sen. Caryn Tyson (R-Parker). The original fiscal note on the bill as it came out of the Senate and before it went to conference was a more than $500 million loss in revenue to the state. It essentially offset all of the spending increase in K-12 education.

Fiscal notes on the measure as it was debated and amended in conference changed constantly because there was no actual way to calculate the impact of changes to Kansas income taxes before the full impact of federal income tax changes were known.

The two biggest threats to the state budget included in HB 2228 were directly tied to the federal tax act passed last December.

One of these was a provision to decouple the state income tax from the federal code so that taxpayers who could no longer itemize on the federal form could still itemize on the state form. The federal code has changed so much that many filers will no longer be able to itemize. While some taxpayers may find a federal benefit (although most will not), the loss of itemization at the state level means higher revenue collections at the state level. But because those who itemize are generally the wealthiest taxpayers (Kansas estimates only about 20% of taxpayers itemize), this revenue would come from the wealthiest Kansans.

The second big item was the “repatriation” of overseas corporate earnings. Among the federal tax changes was a provision to bring the overseas earnings of multi-national corporations back to the United States for tax purposes. These corporations have long been able to essentially shelter much of their earnings overseas to avoid U.S. taxation. These earnings are now being “repatriated” – brought back to the U.S. – and taxed. Tyson wanted to block taxation of these repatriated earnings in Kansas, a measure that is essentially a big corporate tax giveaway.

So – big item number 1 cuts taxes on the wealthiest Kansans while big item number 2 allows corporations to avoid taxation in Kansas. All while providing no relief to the 80% or more of working Kansans.

On Thursday, May 3, the Senate approved the measure on the slimmest of margins 21 to 19, sending it on to the House for a vote on Friday. See how your Senator voted by clicking here.

Now our attention turned to the House where it was expected the vote would be close. As we watched discussions and followed caucus discussions, it was often unclear as to which way the vote would go.

One thing we knew for certain was that if this bill were to pass, the chances that our schools would close in August would be much greater. As it is, many people think the school funding bill passed is likely not to meet adequacy but a tax cut bill that puts the budget underwater in the second year of the school finance plan is almost certain to result in rejection of the plan. Remember the Court was clear in their earlier ruling that the state needed to demonstrate the money would be available to fulfill the promise of a phased-in funding plan.

Debate on the bill in the House began mid-afternoon on Friday. Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Assaria), as chair of the House tax committee, made the motion to adopt the report. Rep. Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita), the ranking Democrat on the committee made the arguments against the bill. Nearly every member who went to the well to speak on the bill was a conservative who supported it. They tried to persuade others that they were giving the people back what was theirs and helping the middle class. Unfortunately, the bill only provided benefits for corporations and the wealthiest Kansans, leaving most of us holding the bag for funding critical state services including schools.

With seven members out as excused absences, the vote came in at 59 to 59. It is important to know that a final action vote such as this requires 63 votes to pass and on a tie vote the bill fails. Conservatives put on a call of the House under which the doors are locked and Legislators are kept in their seats until the call is lifted. The time is then used to pressure anyone that proponents believe to be “weak” in an attempt to get the win. Often the Highway Patrol is sent out to bring absent Legislators back. A call can go on for hours.

In this case, because they were working on Sine Die, the last day, they could not go past midnight. So if people held their positions until midnight the bill would fail.

There were a number of calls to raise the call of the House but if 10 members object, it is not lifted and so the call went on and on. But no votes changed. It held at 59 to 59 until a call to raise the call was successful. Speaker Ryckman (R-Olathe) asked if there were any explanations of vote. There were none. He asked if there were any changes of vote. There were none. He closed the roll, tallied the vote, and declared the bill dead. You can see how your Representative voted by clicking here. 

Another tax conference committee report dealing with motor vehicle rebates was quickly passed and the House adjourned Sine Die.

Thanks to the failure of HB 2228, there is a greater chance that schools will be open come August and that a special session is less likely. Understand that both are still possible! We won’t know until the Court finishes its review of school finance plan but had HB 2228 passed,  a special session and closing of schools would’ve been almost assured.

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