Capitol Update: ‘We cannot fulfill our constitutional obligations without real revenue reform’

Rep. Stephanie Clayton.
Rep. Stephanie Clayton.

The 2016 legislative session is under way in Topeka, and throughout the session we’ll be bringing you a weekly update from one of northeast Johnson County’s elected officials — Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf — about what they’re working on in Topeka. Rep. Clayton submits this week’s update:

As you read this, the Kansas House is working through around 30 bills on the House Floor. Friday is what is known as “Drop Dead Day,” or the end of Regular Legislative Session.

As we work through these bills, we are faced with three fundamental truths:

  • 1. The school funding issue has as of yet to be resolved.
  • 2. Due to massive revenue shortfalls, the Kansas Budget is not balanced.
  • 3. The above issues have as of yet to be resolved, and time is running out.

Many of you may remember that a recent Supreme Court decision has reminded the legislature that we are out of compliance with our constitutional obligation to fund schools equitably, and must be in compliance by June 30 of this year. Of great concern to me was the discussion that took place regarding a House education funding bill on Thursday of last week. The bill received very little support, and there were no attempts to amend the legislation. Instead, legislators spent most of the committee meeting inveighing against the court system, and ultimately did not provide a solution.

The education funding debate could continue throughout the week this week with late nights, intense debate, and a volleying of bills back and forth between the House and Senate, until a final bill is reached…or that debate could play out when the legislature returns for the Veto Session at the end of April.

When we do see an education funding solution, I have concerns that it may be linked with onerous policy bills, in order to procure votes. Many legislators will not vote to move into compliance with the State Constitution unless some of the policy that they support is also attached to the bill. As you follow the debate, watch for a voucher provision (elements of HB 2467), or Curriculum Repeal (HB 2292) to be attached to a funding bill. I will not vote for a bill that contains either of these provisions, as I consider both to be tremendously harmful to education.

The legislature will not be in Session between March 25 and April 27. During that time, many of us will spend our time catching up on constituent communications, and hosting legislative forums. (My legislative forum will be this coming Saturday, March 26, at Foo’s in Leawood from 10-11 a.m)

But, we will all eagerly await the latest figures from the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group. It is this information that will allow us to better understand exactly how dire the state’s financial situation is. Once we have these numbers, it is my hope that my colleagues will finally face facts: that we cannot fulfill our dual constitutional obligations to provide for the suitable education of Kansas students, or to balance the budget of the state without providing the state with a sustainable solution to our volatile tax situation through real revenue reform.

I enjoy hearing from you! You can e-mail me at Stephanie.clayton@ks.house.gov, find me on Facebook at facebook.com/clayton4ks, or follow me on twitter @sscjocoks for real-time updates from the House Floor.