Gov. Laura Kelly predicted Tuesday that state lawmakers ought to complete political wrangling by early April on a new K-12 education funding bill and prepare for a high-stakes decision by the Kansas Supreme Court.
The 2019 Legislature's calendar calls for a break April 6 to May 1 before returning to the Capitol for conclusion to the annual session. The Supreme Court set an April 15 deadline for filing briefs in the case by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and plaintiff lawyers with Schools for Fair Funding. Oral argument is to be May 9.
"I'm hoping that is taken care of before we go on break. We need to give the attorney general a day or so to get ready for the court," Kelly told a group of business lobbyists at a Kansas Chamber luncheon.
The Supreme Court accepted the $525 million, five-year spending increase for public education approved in 2018 as meaningful movement toward bringing state aid to education into compliance with the Kansas Constitution. But the justices also called for an additional appropriation to address years of inflationary costs.
The Senate responded with a bill elevating state aid by $90 million annually to resolve the inflation issue. In the House, a committee continues to work on an alternative that includes controversial policy mandates.
Kelly lauded the Senate bill but was wary of linking new funding to policy edicts applicable to nearly 300 districts statewide.
"I have always been a local-control person. I have never felt comfortable micromanaging the state Board of Education," the governor said.
Kelly endorsed legislative attempts to authorize a study of electric utility rates in Kansas. The issue was a common complaint among voters during the 2018 campaign for governor, she said.
She also expressed support for an effort to create a Kansas system for legal sports betting.
The governor didn't commit to signing or vetoing Senate Bill 22 but repeated reservations about a bill aggressively reducing cash in the state treasury.
The bill would allow corporations and individuals to avoid $200 million in state income taxes triggered by change in federal tax law. The bill would implement an internet sales tax and lower the state sales tax on food by 1 percentage point to 5.5 percent.
"I've asked everyone to just hold tight, be patient," Kelly said. "Let's let that dust settle and see where we are and then have an in-depth, comprehensive review of our tax code."