Legislature should act on good news
The June 3 Kansas Supreme Court ruling finding the state's school districts are constitutionally underfunded has been a wellspring for creative thinking. Nearly every day brings another opinion about how the Legislature should address or avoid the Court's ruling that the state must add $143 million to the $142 million in extra funding the Legislature approved this spring, and do so by July 1.
The latest proposal in advance to a special session of the Legislature starting June 22 called to address the issue is Wednesday's insistence from Gov. Kathleen Sebelius that increased gambling and strict accountability on the part of local districts be part of any package the Legislature approves.
Among strategies proposed by various lawmakers offended by what they saw as the Court overstepping constitutional powers included amending the Kansas Constitution in such a way that strictly limits appropriations to the Legislature, the impeachment of all six Supreme Court Justices, or an appeal of the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court -- a precedent that should terrorize all the state's true conservatives.
All indications were that the special session would be a ruckus worthy of the state's early days, with revenge and political ambitions making any work on school funding an afterthought.
News Tuesday that state revenues are running $172 million ahead of projections for this fiscal year may spare the state that spectacle, at least for the time being. With the money to address the current crisis without mention of the dread words 'tax increase,' it is hoped that enough reasonable lawmakers will show up in Topeka next week ready to act on what seems an answered prayer.
But rest assured the promised battle is coming, and some of the proposals from Republican conservatives who control the House and are within a whisper of dominating the Senate will be on the agenda when the Legislature returns for its 2006 session next January. Fueling that certainty is the Court's order the Legislature must find more than $500 million more for education for the 2006-2007 fiscal year.
Many of the conservatives' proposals would require supermajorities either because they would amend the Kansas Constitution or because they face almost certain veto. That can be difficult, as a pile of sustained vetoes from the just concluded session attests. That means it is very likely the debate could be decided in the best possible way when Kansas voters go to the polls in 2006.