Key players must solve Kansas’ funding woes (minus one inept governor)

Inside the Kansas Capitol.

Inside the Kansas Capitol.

As the Legislature returns Monday, Kansans will count on certain lawmakers to push responsible bills to solve the state’s massive funding problems.

One big name is missing from that list: Sam Brownback, the inept governor who has wrecked the Kansas budget.

His proposed fiscal solutions this session have been panned by Democrats and many Republicans. His 2012 income tax cuts were almost repealed in February. And last week, when the Kansas Supreme Court said K-12 schools were inadequately financed, Brownback offered inane solutions.

Sure, Brownback will retain his veto pen and have some influence on future events. But it will be far weaker than a normal governor would have at a precarious time like this for a state government.

Now on to some of those who will matter more.

— Five Johnson County senators helped sustain Brownback’s veto of the tax-increase plan; the vote fell only three votes short of a repeal.

Sen. Jim Denning fooled too many voters during last fall’s elections into thinking he had seen the light on repealing the governor’s tax cuts. He is a leading candidate to finally come over to the side of fiscal sanity. Given the importance of public education to Johnson County, Sens. Molly Baumgardner, Julia Lynn, Robert Olson and/or Mary Pilcher-Cook should do what’s best for the county’s future by better funding schools as well as public services.

Alas, those four have not given many indications recently that they are ready to do so.

— Senate President Susan Wagle, who also helped sustain Brownback’s veto, must finally step forward to get something done. She properly has criticized Brownback’s funding ideas, yet been unable to steer her own through the Legislature. The pressure is especially on Wagle after last week’s court school ruling.

— In the House, two more Johnson Countians will help determine what kind of school financing bill makes it through the Legislature. They are Reps. Melissa Rooker and Larry Campbell.

Rooker has been working hard for weeks on a replacement education funding bill. Some details can be found here in a story by The Kansas City Star’s Bryan Lowry and here in an article by KCUR’s Sam Zeff. Rooker also was a key participant in reaching a legislative compromise last summer that kept K-12 schools open after a previous Supreme Court ruling.

Campbell is chairman of the K-12 Education Budget Committee that’s been investigating solutions such as Rooker’s plan.

Given the mammoth budget troubles facing Kansas, other lawmakers will have to support reasonable plans to raise more money to finance state services and public education.

The people of Kansas last fall elected additional moderate Republicans and a few more Democrats to solve the state’s fiscal ills. Brownback can’t and won’t help do that. So the focus remains on the Legislature in the coming weeks and months to save Kansas’ future.

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