Public school finance is big issue for KS lawmakers as session begins

By: Tiffany Lane  & Carly Willis

Jan 14, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. – There’s a new governor at the Kansas Statehouse.

Monday, Governor Laura Kelly and Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers, were sworn in on the Capitol steps.

Governor Kelly gave a few words before taking her official oath.

She talked about her path to her new role, and her hopes for the people of Kansas.

“We want the same basic thing,” said Kelly. “We want to know our hard work will be respected, not just a pat in the back but a fair livable wage and a chance to grow.”

After the ceremony, lawmakers got busy to work as the gavel dropped for the first day of session.

The big issue at hand, is public school finance.

Lawmakers must take action this session, to provide millions more in funding, to respond to the Kansas Supreme Court’s ruling.

“We are very close to getting that done,” said Rep. Jim Ward, a democrat and the Kansas House Minority Leader. “And, with just a little bit more effort, we can get there. And, I hope that’s what our focus is, not on constitutional amendments or redrafting a formula that’s already been certified or approved.”

KSN asked lawmakers if taxes need to be raised, or if other departments need to be cut to meet the court’s mandate.

“We agree with Governor- I was about to say Governor-elect- but now Governor Kelly, that we’re not going to raise taxes,” said Rep. Ron Ryckman, a republican and Speaker of the Kansas House. “But we do have to balance the entire budget, and especially looking at the out years, we need to make sure that this is a stable budget.”

Another focus for Governor Kelly is medicaid expansion.

“Knowing leadership on both sides, I think it’s going to be a tough task for her to get anything through,” said Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a republican representing district 31. “As far as these combination plans, I’ve not seen anything yet. So, I don’t know what those look like.”

“There is a consensus pretty much in regards to medicaid expansion,” said Rep. KC Ohaebosim, a democrat representing district 89. “I think that it will pass if it comes up. But, then again, you never know. Anything can happen in terms of what could take place on the floor. But, I’m very confident that it will pass.”

Other issues lawmakers say are important to them moving forward in the legislative session are workforce development and getting President Trump’s tax cuts in the hands of Kansans.

Governor Kelly and Lt. Governor Rogers face a Republican majority legislature. As former state senators, they are used to fighting the uphilll battle of being part of the minority party, according to KSN political analyst Dr. Jeff Jarman.

“This state fundamentally didn’t change its political orientation, they merely rejected a tax policy that didn’t generate as much revenue as they were told it would generate,” Jarman said.

Jarman also highlighted taxes and education funding as well as Medicaid expansion as key issues facing Kelly in the coming months.

“Tax policy is especially controversial so if that goes poorly where there’s lots of division, I think it could set a tone that it could derail lots of future initiatives. But if the tax issue and school funding get worked out sooner rather than later, I think it likely lays the groundwork for bipartisanship and compromise and four years of pushing the state forward,” Dr. Jarman said.

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