Capitol Update: Denning says he’s not working on K-12 constitutional amendment language in Senate

Jay Senter - February 11, 2019 9:30 am
Jim Denning (center) at a candidate forum ahead of the 2016 election.

Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Cindy Holscher, Rep. Jan Kessinger and Sen. Jim Denning are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Sen. Denning’s filing:

I was on the receiving end of the school advocates’ fury when I was asked by Speaker of House last year to slow down the process in the Senate while he whipped votes for a Constitutional Amendment in the House. I was under impression he was close; he was not. I never worked on any constitutional amendment language last year, nor am I this year.

The legislature got out-lawyered, out-worked, out-messaged, out-lobbied by the single issue school lobby corps. The Supreme Court and the Plaintiff attorneys delivered a decisive walloping to the legislature. Pay the amount we have determined as suitable or we close the schools. Messaged received loud and clear.

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The legislature went through the transparent legislative process and passed SB19 and SB423 providing schools with about $1 billion dollars in new money. I voted for SB19 and the Senate version of SB423. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled over the summer that this was still not enough and is demanding one-third more, or about $360 million. Their message is either pay or schools will close. Total school funding is a little over $3.5 billion now, or 52 percent of the Kansas government budget. It should be noted that the calculations the court has been relying on are from the old Montoy lawsuit. The calculations the Governor is using in SB44 deviate from the Montoy calculations and actually short schools about $271 million from FY21-23. The courts signaled $360 million in new money, Governor Kelly is giving only $90 million in new money. Hope she is not setting herself up for another lawsuit when the Supreme Court checks the formula math later this year. It clearly is not calculated under the Montoy method, which is the basis of the Kansas Supreme Court’s entire demand for additional school funding.

I think the courts and Plaintiff attorneys are asking the legislature to put something in statute that cannot be paid in a couple of years. Will have to cross that bridge when we get to it. However, it will occur under Governor Kelly’s first term, I’m fairly certain about that.

It should be noted, that the higher tax collections Kansas is receiving is after we repealed most of Brownback’s tax policy. Most agree that his policy went too deep, too fast. We repealed the Brownback tax policy with SB30 in 2017, which I voted for. As a result, we handed Governor Kelly a healthy beginning checking account balance of $905 million to start her first budget off with.

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