Schools, Taxes, and Your Vote

With the holiday and the late ruling, it's now been two weeks since the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding was acceptable for this school year, but still inadequate in the long run, and gave the Legislature until next year to make the final changes needed. It was an important moment, but given the pressures of an election year, it's pretty far in the rear view mirror now. We wanted to bring it back, and in concert with another momentous event, point out once again the dramatic importance of this election.

Here is the news. After a decade or more of litigation, the KS Supreme Court ruled that the current school finance plan is almost Constitutional. It is equitable, they said, and adequate for this coming school year, but needs to be fixed to account for inflation. And then, as the fiscal year came to a close, it was reported that the tax reform measures put in place in 2017 have produced a budget surplus in Kansas for the first time in many years. Here are the stories:

The tax reform story is a victory, plain and simple. After years of slashing revenue and cutting basic services, the election in 2016 drove the ultra-conservatives out of Topeka and brought a fresh wave of legislators willing to support sustainable tax policies. Tax reform passed, overcame Gov. Brownback's veto, and now we see the results. This very week, a committee is meeting in Topeka to discuss a possible new ten year highway plan. Funding schools in a Constitutional manner is more than just a dream. The sun is finally starting to peek out from behind the clouds. Is it sunny in Kansas?

Not so fast.

In 2017, after the wholesale change in the Legislature, Healthcare expansion came within three votes of overriding the Governor's veto. But this year, it couldn't get more than a single hearing in one Senate committee. And despite everyone knowing the funding levels were too low in the school finance plan, once again it took the Courts to mandate change, even if that change is one we think we can see coming. And even more chilling, there was a touch and go vote at the very end of the session that would have eliminated all the revenue gains made with tax reform. In reproductive rights, civil rights, voting rights, transparency, gun safety, and many other arenas, either there was a step taken backwards, or no progress made.

This year, we elect a new Governor. Will he or she support the changes voters asked for in 2016? This year, we elected all 125 seats in the Kansas House of Representatives. Will we send support for those elected in 2016 to bring change? Or will the ultra-conservatives claw back just enough seats to make passing bills difficult? And that's not paying any mind to what's happening on the national stage.

This is a critical year. 2016 was great, but in 2018 we need you engaged.

It starts here. With you. Do more than vote.

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