Archive for Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Graves outlines spending

Education cuts held in check

January 16, 2002

Gov. Bill Graves on Monday called for an increase in state sales, cigarette and motor-fuels taxes to offset a slumping economy and escalating health-care costs for poor, disabled and elderly Kansans.

Democratic legislative leaders said the proposal proved Graves mismanaged previous years of plenty, while conservative Republicans criticized the governor for trying to increase taxes during the current economic slowdown.

Graves proposed the $228 million tax increase during his State of the State address to open the 2002 legislative session.

"What I propose is the right thing to do. It is fiscally responsible, and more importantly, it is right for Kansans," Graves said.

Facing lawmakers for the last time before his term expires, Graves said more revenue was needed to combat fiscal problems brought by a national recession and increased health-care costs. The Kansas economy also has been rocked by the terrorist attack, which has led to cutbacks in the state's aviation industry.

Tax increases

"We're either going to invest in the future, or we're going to deny vital services, critical programs and economic opportunity to Kansans. It's just that simple," he said to a House chamber packed with lawmakers, state officials and invited guests.

The Graves plan would:

Increase the state sales tax from 4.9 cents per dollar to 5.15 cents per dollar.

Increase the state tax on cigarettes from 24 cents perto 89 cents per pack, which would push the price of many brands of cigarettes to more than $4 per pack.

Increase the state tax on motor fuels 1 cent per gallon, which would raise the state tax on gasoline to 22 cents per gallon and diesel to 24 cents per gallon.

Increase by 3 percent registration fees on all vehicles. The increase would raise the registration fee on a standard vehicle from $25 to $25.75.

The increase in sales and cigarette taxes would be used to provide small increases to public schools, higher education and social services. The increases in the motor-fuels tax and vehicle registration fees would be used to offset cuts to the state highway program.

Cuts restored

Graves said that for the median Kansas household earning $40,000 per year, the increases would equal 12 cents per day "or the equivalent of one liter of soda per week. The Kansans I know are prepared to provide these resources in support of their neighbors, friends and family who will benefit from these restorations and enhancements."

Graves' plan would restore proposed cuts made to education, highways and social services in the current fiscal year and provide some increases in the 2003 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The proposal would:

Restore $91 million in cuts to public schools in the current fiscal year and increase per pupil spending by $20, at a cost of $12 million, for the next fiscal year.

Restore a $27 million cut to higher education in the current fiscal year and provide $7 million for salary increases at institutions of higher education in the next fiscal year. If used for an across-the-board salary increase, it would raise salaries of faculty, classified employees and unclassified professionals by about 1 percent.

Increase salaries of state employees, outside of higher education, by 2 percent.

Provide a $1-million increase in student financial aid for higher education.

Restore numerous cuts to welfare programs and increase by $5 million at-home services for the poor and elderly.

Local Education

School districts were prepared for Graves to announce a $158 per pupil cut in education financing.

The Governor had announced the cuts last month, and had prepared to include it in his proposal to the Legislator up until Monday.

The Basehor-Linwood School Board hosted a informational meeting last week for the community to explain the effects those cuts would have had on smaller school districts.

Mark Tallman, a representative for the Kansas Board of Education who spoke at the informational meeting, said Kansas teachers face shrinking salaries each year and many are forced to look for higher-paying jobs outside of education.

About 70 to 80 percent of school funding is spent on teacher salaries.

Any cuts in state spending would likely send more teachers looking for higher salaries in larger school districts or even outside education, Tallman said.

Although Graves has now proposed no cuts in education funding, the proposal still has to meet Legislative approval.

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