School finance decision casts shadow on new legislative session – Osage County Online | Osage County News

School finance decision casts shadow on new legislative session

State Rep. Blaine Finch, 59th District, Franklin and Osage Counties

rep_finch_blaine_MGreetings from the Kansas Statehouse. As I write to you we are approaching the end of the second week of session. This is a shortened week with the Martin Luther King holiday on Monday and a pro forma session on Friday.

The session really got underway last week with the governor’s state of the state address and his submission of his version of a supplemental budget for 2015. Remember that the budget passed by the legislature last year was supposed to be a two-year budget. However, deep cuts to public safety spending in the corrections budget and some across the board cuts to higher education have required the legislature to take another look at those areas.

The governor’s budget calls for increases in state spending for corrections, higher education and a new program of all-day kindergarten. The all-day K program will add $16,000,000 to the budget this year and an additional $16,000,000 each year for the next five years until it is fully funded at $80,000,000 per year after five years. The proposed budget would raise state spending by about $170,000,000.

The real issue to watch now is how much of the budget gets passed. Because income tax cuts are steadily reducing state revenues the state has less money to spend. If all of the proposed spending is approved the state will spend over half of its ending cash balance – its reserve fund – by the end of FY 2015. If projections hold, the state will have spent all of its reserves by the end of FY 2016. The state cannot spend more than it takes in, yet that is exactly what last year’s budget and this year’s supplemental will do. Keep a close eye on this one.

We are still waiting on a decision in the Gannon school finance case. If that case is decided during the session it will immediately become the single biggest issue the legislature will have on its plate. At issue is whether the legislature is meeting its constitutional duty to make “suitable provision” for public education. This rather nebulous term is not defined in our constitution and has proved vexatious for years.

The second issue is whether the legislature is obligated to fund K-12 at a certain level. Prior legislatures had agreed that the base state aid per pupil would be $4,492 and in fact passed a law to that effect, K.S.A. 72-6410. However, after the recession of 2008 the base was cut. Today the base aid number is $3,838. The court’s potential decision is casting long shadows over the beginning of the session and will definitely be one to watch as we gear up.

I will attempt to keep you posted on developments under the dome. As always if you have any questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at 785-296-7655 or [email protected]. I appreciate hearing from you and I am deeply thankful for the opportunity to serve you as your representative.

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