MainStream wraps up legislative series: it’s mostly about the money now

Money dominated the last of the MainStream Coalition’s legislative series Thursday: how are we going to pay for state government, what gets cut and how much tax are we going to pay. It has been a constant theme in the discussions this year.

With the Legislature still in session and still grappling with tax and budget plans, it was no surprise. Emporia State University professor Michael

Michael Smith of Emporia State University spoke to the MainStream Coalition.

Smith told the group that Kansas Governor Sam Brownback finds himself at odds with some conservatives he helped elect. Brownback, Smith said, believes sales or property tax should fund government and income tax should be phased out because it hurts job growth. The more conservative legislators want to phase out income tax and not replace it with anything – just cut more spending from government.

Some of the job growth that the income tax reductions count on is just moving jobs across the state line, Smith contended, calling it “phony” economic growth. Medicaid and K-12 education dominate the state budget, Smith said, making it hard to cut government spending without hitting those two areas.
The poorest school districts in the state are in rural Kansas, Smith said. The Kansas school aid formula redistributes money from places like Johnson County to those rural districts. If school funding is shifted to property tax, those districts will have difficulty and it might not “pass muster with the courts,” he said.

State Rep. Melissa Rooker said local school districts are fighting back against an attempt to ditch Common Core standards for schools. Schools have been training for three years to move to the new standards and away from the assessments tied to the No Child Left Behind Act. Conservatives have branded Common Core as a federal takeover, but Rooker said in Kansas local boards choose textbooks and teachers are in control of lesson plans.

Common Core sets standards for achievement that have been agreed upon among several states. Using the Common Core math and English standards is the basis for the NCLB waiver, Without it, schools will be subject to penalties if they do not meet proficiency standards.