Governor Touches On Education But Not Budget In State Of The State Address; Democrats Respond
Gov. Sam Brownback spoke to the Legislature and the people of Kansas Tuesday night, but he did not reveal his budget. That is expected to happen Wednesday morning when Budget Director Shawn Sullivan meets with lawmakers.
The spending plan will include a proposal to increase security at the state’s National Guard bases.
During Tuesday’s State of the State address, Brownback offered no specific budget details or ideas on how to close a projected budget shortfall of about $190 million.
What he did say was that more investments need to be made in education, preserving water resources and strengthening security at National Guard facilities.
The governor says the adjutant general recently completed a comprehensive security assessment of the bases.
"Included in his report was a plan to arm and train additional personnel and make security enhancements to our National Guard facilities," Brownback says. “My budget proposal includes funding to support these activities.”
The governor is calling for a proposed constitutional amendment for what he calls “a more democratic” selection process for state Supreme Court justices.
He said he is also creating a working group led by the Lieutenant Governor to come up with a plan to improve rural health care access and outcomes.
Refocusing Education Funding
Gov. Brownback is also calling for a new funding system for public education. It’s the second time in as many years that he’s called on the Legislature to change the financing formula.
During his State of the State Address, Brownback described teaching as “a calling,” and wants the state to make a commitment to teachers.
The governor says the state spends more than $4 billion on education, but he doesn’t think enough of it is helping teachers.
"I call on the Legislature to design a new education funding system that puts more of our money into instruction," Brownback says. “That provides bonuses for exceptional teachers and recognizes their true value to our future and the souls of our students.”
Last year, the Legislature scrapped the state’s longstanding per-pupil school funding formula and moved to a block grant system.
Wichita Public Schools and three other districts sued, claiming the state has not met its constitutional obligation to adequately and equitably finance school districts.
That issue now sits with the Kansas Supreme Court.
Kansas House Democrats Respond
Kansas House Democrats say the Brownback administration is putting its personal political agenda ahead of the needs of state residents. House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs provided the Democratic response to the governor’s State of the State address Tuesday night.
Burroughs says the state government has mismanaged the budget and the economy and has included cuts in public infrastructure and education.
The Kansas City representative says the way to grow the state economy is to create new jobs and bring in new businesses through investments in innovation and research.
Burroughs says the Republican-dominated Legislature has passed tax cuts for big businesses at the expense of families.
“We’re going to work at reducing or eliminating the sales tax on food and stopping the rise of property taxes because we know when it comes to tax policies, these are the real ways to help Kansas families,” he says.
During his State of the State Address, Brownback described the state as “strong and growing.”
He said the state added more than 78,000 jobs in the past five years and achieved its lowest unemployment rate in 14 years.
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