State looks to better times financially

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Opinion column

by Murrel Bland

After flirting with bankruptcy, the Kansas Legislature took the necessary action to restore financial stability to state government. At least that is the way State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, D- 36th Dist., sees it.

Rep. Moore was among the state legislators who were panelists at the monthly meeting of the Congressional Forum Friday, June 16, at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.

Moore said since 2012, the state has spent all of its reserves and failed to fund transportation and the state pension fund adequately. She said that by increasing the income tax and eliminating the “LLC loophole” for business, the state should be solvent. She said the state income tax will have three brackets rather than only two brackets that Gov. Sam Brownback proposed.

The “LLC loophole,” which allows business owners to escape paying any state income tax, was approved in 2012 by a Legislature that was much more conservative and aligned with Gov. Brownback. The 2016 election yielded a much more moderate Legislature, particularly from Johnson County. Political observers saw this repeal of the “LLC loophole” as a very major defeat for the governor. Gov. Brownback is expected to accept a position in President Donald Trump’s administration as an envoy to the United Nations.

About half of the $6 billion budget that the legislators control will go to fund education. The Kansas City, Kansas, School District received about $139 million from the state for the 2016-2017 school year—nearly half of its $300 million annual budget. The Legislature has suggested that the district receive an additional $9 million for the coming year. The Kansas Supreme Court will have to approve the amount that the Legislature spends on schools. A decision is expected soon.

State Rep. Valdenia Winn, D- 34th Dist., who is a history professor at Kansas City Kansas Community College, and also a member of the Kansas City, Kansas, School Board, said the proposed state funding is not enough.

Only about two-thirds of the students in the district graduate with their class. The Community College must spend a considerable amount of money in holding remedial classes in reading and mathematics. Most of these students are from the Kansas City, Kansas, District. Even some students from Sumner Academy, a college preparatory school, must take such classes, according to J.D. Rios, a former administrator with the school district who is now chairman of the Board of Trustees at the college. In past years, Sumner Academy has been recognized as one of the top high schools in the United States.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. His is executive director of Business West.

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