Taxes, Bonds, and a Budget
Taxing Authority for Community/Tech Colleges?
The House Vision 2020 Committee today held a hearing on three bills that would raise taxes for Community Colleges and Technical Colleges.
House Bill 2568 would allow community colleges to levy a property tax of up to two mills for a five year period in counties where they have satellite campuses.
House Bill 2569 raises a five mill statewide property tax levy to provide for the educational building fund to support construction at community and technical colleges.
House Bill 2570 would allow technical colleges to levy a property tax of up to two mills for a five year period in their home counties.
Representative Rooker (R-Fairway) wondered why tax bills were being heard in this committee when the House has a standing Tax Committee. That’s a good question! It could be because leadership did not want the bills in the Tax Committee and the only way they would get talked about is if they were introduced in a committee made up of almost exclusively moderate Republicans and Democrats.
The bills were not worked today. Committee Chairman Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) said that he intended to work the bills unless Committee members told him they had no interest. We’ll watch and see what happens next week.
Senate Education Hears Bond and Interest Review Board Bill
Senate Bill 356 is the Senate’s version of House Bill 2486 with both bills establishing a board to review bond issues for school districts that get bond and interest state aid. The bills also limit such aid to areas in a project that are specifically for the direct instruction of students.
The bill was supported by Walt Chappell, Dave Trabert, and Mike O’Neal. KNEA spoke against the bill, telling the committee that facilities have a direct relationship to student learning and teacher morale. Additionally, KNEA asked the committee to not approach a new school finance formula piecemeal but instead put off this discussion until they gather to craft a comprehensive school finance plan.
No action was taken on the bill.
House Ed Cancelled Today: CC/TC Due Process Debate Scheduled
Due to the long budget debate on the House floor, the afternoon committees were cancelled. The Committee will meet tomorrow but we do not know what the agenda will be at this time.
Chairman Ron Highland (R-Wamego) did announce that the committee will work HB 2531, the bill stripping community college and technical college instructors of due process protections next Thursday, February 18.
Budget Debate On-Going; KPERS Issue Amended
The House began debate on SB 161, the budget bill, shortly after 11:00 am and it is still debating as we write.
The first amendments, both of which passed, were offered by Rep. Steven Johnson (R-Asaria), Chairman of the House Pensions Committee. Johnson’s first amendment would require that the state pay KPERS back in the first quarter of the next fiscal year with 8% interest. His second amendment would prohibit the Governor from applying allotments (mid-year cuts) to KPERS in the next fiscal year.
While both amendments improve the KPERS situation, they do not reverse it. The budget still uses KPERS payments to balance the budget on paper – a very bad precedent.
It will also require the appropriation of enough money to provide the reimbursement and the interest. It’s hard to imagine that being possible given the dire conditions of the state’s revenue stream. Thanks to the reckless and failed tax policy of Governor Brownback, the state continues to bleed revenue forcing the legislature to struggle just like they are today to balance the budget. Or at least to balance the budget on paper. This budget doesn’t solve any problems; it kicks the can down the road.
We will report tomorrow on the outcome of this budget debate.
Best quote in the floor debate today: “If Eisenhower were a member of this legislature, he could not get himself appointed chairman of the Vision 2020 Committee.”