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Under the Dome - May 31, 2013


Day 98 dawns no closer to the end

Yes, the session is supposed to be no more than 90 days and yes, Republican House and Senate leadership assured Kansans that they would complete their work in 80 days to save money but yes, this is day 98 and taxpayers are shelling out $45,000 for each day the legislature continues.

Another one bites the dust...

Late last night, the House took action on their latest tax bill - a proposal crafted by Wichita Republicans Gene Suellentrop and Mark Hutton. This plan would have set the sales tax at 6.3% and 4.9% on food (the three-year-old tax increase is set to go back down to 5.7% in July). It would further reduce income tax brackets, would cut itemized deductions in half, and slash the standard deduction from $9000 to $6500 for married filing jointly or $5000 for head of household. It also capped state spending growth at no more than 2% per year starting in 2016.

The bill would have been a $700 million tax increase on Kansans. Those Kansans in the bottom 40% of earners (those making less than $37,000/year) would pay more in taxes. Those with incomes between $37,000 and $60,000 would see no benefit. And those in the top 40% of earners would see their taxes go down. The top 1% of earners - those making more than $439,000/year - would see an average tax decrease of $5,796.

This bill would support a budget that holds K-12 education funding flat, reduces funding for post-secondary education, and does nothing to support the social service safety net. Essentially, this tax bill fills the hole created by Governor Brownback's reckless tax plan of 2012 and then continues to dig the revenue hole by further reducing income taxes. Imagine what would happen when the Supreme Court rules in the school finance lawsuit and the state is required to appropriately fund education but must work under reduced revenue collections and a spending cap?

House members were not amused. They voted the plan down 18 to 92. This is the third sales tax increase/income tax cut bill that the House has rejected.

The House/Senate Tax Conference Committee met this morning. When we got to the meeting, Governor Brownback was there talking with House Tax Chairman Richard Carlson. When the other conferees arrived, Carlson told the Senators that he was working on a new plan that he hoped would pass the House but he had nothing to offer at this time.

So here we are on day 98 still waiting to see what might happen. No tax bill; no budget.

Common Core Standards still an issue?

We are still tracking the relentless attacks on the common core standards. Educators know only too well the importance on continuing the implementation of these standards but conspiracy theorists using Glenn Beck videos are leading an effort to discredit and destroy this work.

There is hall talk that some in the House are deliberately holding up a budget resolution to force the Senate to pass a bill or agree to prohibit implementation of the common core standards. A bill to do just that failed in the House Education Committee.

So while this issue still floats out there, you are encouraged to contact Senators and Representatives representing your school districts urging them to oppose any effort to de-fund the implementation of the Common Core Standards. Explain the investment your districts have already made in implementing the Standards and that they establish rigorous academic expectations in English language arts and mathematics. The Common Core Standards are part of the Kansas College and Career Readiness Standards and define the knowledge and skills all students should master by the end of each grade to be on track for success in college and career.

Use these talking points:

• A bill banning the common core standards was heard in the House Education Committee where it was defeated on a vote of 11 to 7.

• There was no such bill introduced or heard in the Senate.

• It is a clear violation of the spirit of representative democracy and the legislative process to take a bill that was voted down in committee and was never heard at all in one chamber and then to insert the provisions of that bill into a comprehensive budget bill for all state agencies.

• The bill has not passed either chamber and so it is wrong to even consider such a proposal in a conference committee. This action violates the legislative process.

• The Common Core Standards are not an initiative of the federal government. They were created by state Governors and Chief State School Officers. They represent the best efforts of the states to align standards in order to prepare every student for a career or post-secondary education.

• The State Board of Education is responsible for ensuring the success of the public education system of Kansas. The members of the State Board approved participation in the Common Core Standards and it is they who work to ensure that Kansas schools will have the strongest standards for instruction. Adoption of this proviso strips another elected body of its constitution authority to oversee public education in Kansas.

• Our schools have already invested significant resources and time in preparing our staff to implement the new standards. We support the Common Core Standards because they will improve instruction and help ensure that every Kansas child graduates from high school career or college ready.

• Please reject any effort to prohibit the common core standards.

Use the KNEA legislative contact web portal to email your representative and senator: http://www.knea.org/home/312.htm


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