Schroeder gives budget, school update

Representative, 74th District

The 2013 legislative session is off and running. We began the session on Jan. 14 with the usual ceremony the sessions typically begin with.

The governor’s State of the State address was Jan. 15. Of course, the message the governor gives is a reflection of his goals for the future of the state as well as the priorities he has for the current legislative session. Many of his goals center around efficiency and smaller government.

We received the proposed budget from the governor on Jan. 16, so I have not had a chance to look it over to any degree. It is several hundred pages and takes some time to sift through the contents. It appears the proposal to make up for the lower revenues is to retain the sales tax.

Speaking of revenue, the state is expecting a reduction of about $270 million for this year and larger revenue reductions for the next several years unless some adjustments are made to the existing tax package.

It will be interesting to see what priorities come to the top as the legislative session progresses and if the earlier proposal to extend the sales tax and further reduce income taxes has any chance of happening.

Much of the concern, especially now that a court ruling has come down regarding increased funding for schools, is whether the state will have enough revenue to take care of basic services, especially K-12 schools. School funding is constitutionally required, although we debate what a suitable level is.

This may be a good time to remind everyone that over half of the state general fund goes to K-12 funding. If we put together K-12, higher education, social services and public safety, the funding for those four programs represents over 90 percent of the state general fund. It is a real puzzle to figure out how to resolve the funding issue for the state in the future.

The governor put forward a proposal to make sure fourth grade students are able to read at the appropriate level. Reading is key to virtually all other education, so targeting that is important.

The governor also suggested that we may want to put some definition to exactly what the term “suitable” means in the Kansas Constitution as it pertains to school funding. Any change in language would be a constitutional change, and therefore a question that the people of Kansas would have to vote to accept or reject.

It is a pleasure to serve as the representative for part of Harvey, Marion, and McPherson counties. My phone is (785) 296-7500 and e-mail is don.schroeder@house.ks.gov.

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