Monthly Archives: January 2005
Governor Challenges Legislature with Aggressive Agenda
In her Monday night State of the State address, Governor Kathleen Sebelius presented her vision for a healthy Kansas by proposing a number of initiatives to be addressed during the 2005 legislative session. The governor’s speech focused on four areas including improving health care, supporting education, creating jobs, and securing Kansas.
While K-12 education funding will steal the spotlight for most of the legislative session, health care should prove to be the other big issue. In improving health care access and affordability, the governor has worked with Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger to introduce the “HealthyKansas” initiative. This initiative extends health insurance to 70,000 low-income children and working parents and provides small businesses a new, market-based solution to providing affordable insurance to their employees. The governor has proposed a 50 cent tax increase per cigarette pack to pay for the program.
This past November the governor committed Kansas to becoming the fourth state member of the I-Save Rx program. This program allows Kansans to purchase safe, low-cost prescription drugs from state-approved pharmacies in Europe and Canada, thus saving significant amounts on their monthly prescription bills.
In the area of jobs creation, the governor indicated that she would be supportive of legislation that encourages job creation by supporting small businesses as well as initiatives that promote investments in new technologies. The governor also believes that by providing affordable health care and having a long-term solution for properly funding K-12 schools, Kansas will be more successful in attracting out-of-state businesses. And in making Kansas a safer place, the governor has proposed spending $48.7 million directly on homeland security projects and grants to local governments. This will help insure that critical first responder services – police, fire, and other emergency personnel – will be able to directly communicate with one another and better coordinate their efforts.
The governor will also be encouraging approaches for effectively curtailing the illegal methamphetamine industry in Kansas. I will be making a number of critical votes on these and other issues in the weeks ahead, and I want your input! Please feel free to contact me at (785) 296-7665 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you think.
Scott Rothschild of the Lawrence Journal-World writes a new article about the current legislative session, and in it I have the chance to talk about the Republican plan for education funding. You can read the article here.
Education funding ball back in Legislature’s court
Legislature given until April 12 to correct K-12 finance problems The Kansas Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that the current school finance system was unconstitutional because the Kansas Legislature failed to properly fund it. They also gave the Legislature until April 12 to increase funding for schools and correct various funding inequities.
In a unanimous opinion, the court stated that “it is clear increased funding will be required; however, increased funding may not in and of itself make the finance formula constitutionally suitable. The equity with which the funds are distributed and the actual costs of education, including appropriate levels of administrative costs, are critical factors for the legislature to consider in achieving a suitable formula for financing education. By contrast, the present financing formula increases disparities in funding, not based on a cost analysis, but rather on political and other factors not relevant to education.” In making its ruling, the court referred to the Augenblick and Meyers study as part of the evidence justifying their decision that the Legislature was not adequately funding K-12 education.
The recent 2004 elections could have a profound effect on how the Legislature deals with the school financing issue. A number of moderate Republican House incumbents were defeated in the 2004 primary over the issues of gay marriage and tax increases for K-12 education. House Democrats also lost three seats in the general election. On balance, the House now contains more conservatives who are opposed to any sort of increase in state taxes. As the Legislature swings back into session, look for renewed attempts by House conservatives to redefine what constitutes a suitable education (thus moving the definition away from the A & M study and establishing a rationale for no new state taxes). Their ability to sell political moderates on their approach will go a long way in determining how a new finance system is put together.
Given that we are less than two years away from the 2006 gubernatorial race, the Legislature will be hard-pressed not to meet the challenge to develop a school finance system that will pass muster with the Kansas Supreme Court. Otherwise, the Legislature’s inability to shoulder responsibility for educating Kansas children will be the election issue in 2006.