Archive for Thursday, January 22, 2004

House Call

Dissecting ‘Education First’

January 22, 2004

Good evening to all of you on a cold, Martin Luther King Day from Olathe. I hope all of you had a good weekend. The Legislature was not in session today because of the holiday, but we will be back at work Tuesday. My kids are off to bed this evening, and that gives us ample time to discuss Governor Kathleen Sebelius' most recent budget proposal.
So here it is in short form.
The governor proposed two budgets, A and B. The A budget is essentially last year's budget. There are no new taxes and no money for education, transportation, seniors, etc. Basically, it's status quo from last year.
The B budget includes what the governor calls "Education First." It includes tax increases and the proceeds of that tax increase are directed toward schools -- the universities and K-12.Here are the new taxes:he Governor proposes to raise the statewide sales tax from 5.3 percent to 5.7 percent over a three year period. That raises61 million in 2005, $106 million in 2006 and148 million in 2007. She proposes anncome tax surcharge of 5 percent, which raises $97 million, $100 million and $102 million in '05, '06, and '07, respectively. A surcharge is not a raise in the base state tax rate. It simply means that youalculate your tax due and then add 5 percent (hence, a surcharge). The last piece of the governor's proposal is a-mill statewideroperty tax. That raises nothing in '05, $23 million in '06,nd $24 million in '07.
What does all this mean? Well, it means that by 2007 we'll spend $300 million more on education than we spend today.ut I'll come back tohat.
I want to comment briefly on the way this was conveyed from the governor's office. First, no one had a clue what the governor was going to propose. Even Democrats were left out of this. Secondly, the speech itself said nothing of tax increase.
The governor said here's plan A and here's plan B. If you have courage, you'll join me in working on plan B to make "Education First." The tax-hike plan was circulated to House members during the speech butas not mentioned in the speech. I have some issue with that. I believe our governor should lead from the front not encourage us from the rear. If she wants taxes for schools, than byosh pony up and say so. Don't beat around the bush. Of course I come from a military background and maybe my expectations are too high but I think leaders lead. Period.
That being said, you all know that I am a big supporter of education. So let me tell you what I liked about the governor's speech. I liked that she tied education to economic development, my two favorite topics. We've known for 100 years that great schools lead to economic development. It's nice to hear someone acknowledge the fact.
I also liked the governor's commitment to economic development. Investments in the life sciences, workforce development, venture capital for rural Kansas, entrepreneurism -- all aspects of some sweeping eco devo legislation thatill beood for Kansas. I commend the governor and lieutenant governor for their desire to make Kansas a premiere state for forward-thinking economic policy.
Now back to the "Education First" plan. Preliminary feedback from the superintendents and from some friends at Kansas University lead me to believe that "Education First" doesn't really do much for education. The governor's plan does little to boost spending on higher education and the recalculation of special education dollars for K-12 actually costs our school districts money. I fully support spending on education, but I fear the governor has missed it with "Education First."
We have a long way to go and ample opportunity to rewrite the governor's proposal. Until then, I fear "Education First" does nothing more than treat education like No. 2, and that's hard to support.Until next time, sleep well, and I'll talk to you soon.

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