February 18, 2016

Was anyone surprised when the Kansas Supreme Court said the block-grant school funding system set in place last year by the Kansas Legislature was unconstitutional?

Despite generally positive support for public schools from the majority of voters in Kansas, the Legislature has attempted every way possible to underfund schools. And time and time again, their actions have been deemed unconstitutional, as in they weren’t sufficiently funding schools.

It’s understandable that school funding is so often in the crosshairs of folks trying to shave down the budget. K-12 and higher education took up 43 percent of the FY2014 budget in Kansas, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. No other expense in Kansas comes close.

But while education has always been a major expense, the intense debate surrounding education funding has really taken off over the last few years. Why? It comes down to Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to get rid of the income tax in Kansas. …

Small business owners and others were pleasantly surprised by the sudden windfall of extra cash in their pockets.

But we weren’t expecting or demanding the cut, and nobody knew the impact the cuts would have on the state budget. …

In December, former Kansas Budget Director Duane Goossen provided statistics that showed Kansas had given up $2.715 billion in taxes as a result of the income-tax cuts in FY2013 through FY2015.

If the income tax cuts had never occurred, Goossen said the Kansas budget would easily balance today.

“The sales tax rate would be at 5.7 percent, not 6.5, the state would have reserves, and with careful management there might even be enough resources to lower the sales tax rate on food. But that’s only a dream now.”

He suggested the Kansas budget problem was a self-inflicted financial crisis and the way out of it was to go to the source of the problem — income tax cuts.

So how about it, legislators? The writing is on the wall regarding what needs to happen to get us out of this mess.

You shouldn’t have approved this cut in the first place — it’s time to admit it didn’t work and make things right by going back to the former income-tax system.

Read more from the Garden City Telegram here

ClayGARDEN CITY TELEGRAM: Tax toll: Legislators can fix problem by reversing reckless policies