As the veto session ends, different packages of revenue, school funding and budget have been tried and tried again. It is very difficult to find a solution to the budget and school issues that can find a majority vote and finally be resolved, either by simple majority or supermajority votes.
The latest on the school funding formula is that House leadership tried to tie the income tax revenue the State receives directly to school funding. Those two issues are separate and distinct issues in that the school funding formula is just that, a formula, and taxes are taxes. Combining the two is difficult to accomplish as the Kansas Constitution requires a bill to contain only one subject. Combining those two issues has been done before, but must be done very carefully.
Monday, the House and Senate both worked later into the evening as the school funding formula and tax were again separated and voted on separately. The school funding formula ran first, passing both the House and then the Senate with a few more votes than needed. Next, the tax question passed the House first with a couple votes to spare and the Senate with a little larger margin. The Governor had already promised to veto the tax legislation, but has not said whether he will veto the school funding formula.
That put the Legislature in a bit of a quandary as the time is already late. There was a big hurry to try a veto override, which occurred late Tuesday. It was a close vote as it passed the Senate 27-13 and the House 88-31. An override requires 27 in the Senate and 84 in the House. It’s something of a catch-22 as voting to increase taxes is always difficult, but the budget spreadsheets clearly show some serious problems if something is not done. While this increase is mostly income taxes, to the tune of almost $600M per year, let’s not forget that the tax cuts from 2012 were in the neighborhood of $900M to $1B per year. At least we can quit borrowing money to backfill the budget. That was never a good way to manage the revenues.
As for the budget, the Senate passed their version across the Senate floor Sunday evening. Yes, we continued to work through the weekend. The House budget passed out of the committee Monday evening and was debated and passed by the full House Thursday. It easily passed the House and was promptly put into conference so House and Senate negotiators can come to terms on a compromise budget. It is possible we may finish by Friday night, but more likely sometime during the weekend.
Certainly the attitude of everyone here is that we would like to finish up, but with the three large issues, writing a school formula, resolving the revenue issues and then passing a budget that appears to be pretty lean, the session has simply continued longer than expected. It seems that some of the delay could be due to new, inexperienced leadership as well as a large number of new Senate and House members. Simply said, it takes a certain amount of time for new leadership and Legislative members to get somewhat comfortable with their new roles.
This is the last legislative report for this year. It has certainly been a grueling session but we can finally breathe a little easier as we finish budget issues and finally get back home. If the Supreme Court determines the new formula does not make muster, we will be back here to fix it soon. We all hope the formula is adequate to meet the adequacy and equity portions of school finance. It is still an honor to serve the people of Kansas and I thank you for the opportunity.
—Don Schroeder is a Republican member of the Kansas House of Representatives, representing the 74th district. He has served since 2007.