Debate possible tonight on bill that includes school finance, tax increase

The Legislature tonight may begin debate and vote on a bill that includes both an overhaul of school finance and increases taxes.

Education advocates are urged to follow KASB on Facebook, Twitter and to monitor developments.

The measure would increase aid to schools by $280 million over two years and also includes a tax increase that would raise approximately $1 billion over two years. It would also forward a new policy, sending all state income taxes to school funding.

The measure, negotiated by House and Senate Republicans on the school finance conference committee, would also expand tax credits to send certain students to private schools and implements a cap on bonds that school districts can issue.

The proposal also calls for approval of a trailer bill that expands the sales tax to some services and includes some deductions.

Democrats on the conference committee refused to sign the conference committee report.

The changes were inserted into Senate Bill 19 and will be voted on first by the House.

The tax portion would reinstate a three-bracket income tax structure with rates of 3 percent for married couples earning up to $30,000, then 5.25 percent on income between $30,000 and $100,000 and 5.6 percent on income above $100,000. The tax portion was requested by House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe.

Some legislators expressed discomfort with combining a tax increase and school finance plan in the same bill and with the outcome of the trailer bill.

On the school finance portion, the measure would increase base state aid to $4,006 per student next year and $4,128 per student in the year after that.

The bill would also expand a scholarship tax credit program, commonly referred to as vouchers. Under the current program, approved in 2014, corporations and businesses can donate money for certain students from low-income families to go to private school. The corporation receives a tax credit worth 70 percent of the amount contributed.

Under the new proposal, individuals and LLCs would be eligible to contribute and get the tax credit. The program would still be limited to $10 million in tax credits and the maximum contribution would be capped at $500,000. On Thursday, Gov. Sam Brownback said he would like to see expansion of school choice.

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