The conference committee accepted a budget offer from the House after Senate Ways and Means Chair Ty Masterson, R-Andover, asked for a proposal House leaders believe has the best chance to pass. The House offer did not include the Common Core proviso put forward by the Senate last Thursday. House Appropriations Chair Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, told Senators legislative staff believed the proviso would be unconstitutional if placed in the budget.
The Kansas State Board of Education has adopted the Common Core standards, along with 44 other states, and the standards are included in the No Child Left Behind Waiver the state received last summer from the federal government. Many schools districts have been training teachers and implementing instructional materials to match the new standards. However, opposition to the Common Core has intensified in Kansas and nationally in recent months. A bill prohibiting further implementation of the standards was narrowly defeated in the House Education Committee during the regular session. KASB issued a statement in support of the standards at last week's State Board meeting, and a sent a joint letter with the Kansas National Education Association and the United School Administrators regarding the proviso on Friday. Further background information and links to materials are available in my blog posts from Monday and Tuesday.
Although the budget is expected to be ready for consideration this afternoon, some media reports say it is unlikely to come up for a vote until negotiators also reach agreement on a tax plan. The Senate yesterday responded to the House offer made last week to drop the state sales tax rate from 6.3 percent to 6.0 percent on June 30, rather than 5.7 percent under current law. The new Senate proposal drops the rate to 6.25 percent. The tax conference committee is scheduled to meet at 9:30 this morning for a formal House response.
Like other proposals under consideration, the latest Senate tax plan attempts to balance the following: (1) assumption of 4 percent annual growth in future state revenues; (2) further income tax rate cuts through 2018 which reduce state revenue; (3) funding a budget plan that that does not make major cuts in core state services like education, medical expenses and public safety; and (4) does not result in a budget deficit through 2018.
Given the magnitude of income tax rate cuts passed last year and supported by the Senate and Governor Brownback, the major options to meet those goals are: (1) keeping all or part of the 0.6 percent sales tax in place rather than allowing it to expire on scheduled, (2) "broadening" the income tax base by reducing income tax deductions, or (3) adopting less aggressive future rate cuts.
The Senate offer does all of those things, and results in a barely positive 0.6% ending balance in FY 2018. Here is a description of the latest Senate plan from the Kansas Economic Progress Council. A new projection of how the Senate tax plan matches the conference committee budget has not yet been released.
The House proposal adopted by the budget conference committee includes an alternative to the Governor's Read to Succeed initiative, which originally included $6 million in each of the next two years for reading program grants. Under the conference committee budget, if the Governor's plan does not pass, the Children's Cabinet would be directed to spend $6 million each year to implement a pilot program in reading education called Lexia Reading in FY 2014 and 2015. House Chairman Rhoades said the money is expected to allow the program to be expanded from less than 100 schools currently to 250 schools in FY 2014 and all schools in FY 2015.