by Anne Meyer
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
6:31 PM CST, January 14, 2013
Kansas lawmakers are back in session. They have a lot to take on this year, but the budget will be the biggest issue. This year the state is taking less income tax from your paycheck, which means less money for the budget. Lawmakers must also figure out how to fund education after a court determined the current funding level is unconstitutional.
One of the ways lawmakers may deal with education spending is by changing the state's constitution. A three judge panel ruled Friday that Kansas is not giving enough money to Kansas schools. "The average state in the United States spends 35.3% on their total budget on K-12. Kansas spends 52%, but the court says that is not enough," said Senator Les Donovan.
He is one of many lawmakers who say the courts went to far. "It is putting us in an constitutional crisis where there is disagreement an elected legislature and a appointed court," said Senator Susan Wagle.
Governor Sam Brownback will likely ask lawmakers to change the state's funding formula, to include things like building expenses and teacher pensions to count towards classroom spending in order to reach the court's mandated amount.
Income Tax Cuts
While lawmakers work to balance the budget, they will have less money to work with. A new state income tax went into effect January first. The state is taking less out of your paycheck, which is good for your but tough for lawmakers. They will need to figure out how to make up nearly $300 million.
"We are going to have a lot of work to do on the budget, because of the projected shortfall. This court ruling on Friday about school finance is definitely throwing a curve ball into the budget process," said Senator Michael O'Donnell.
While it may be harder to balance the budget, many lawmakers are hoping Brownback's plan will bring new business to the state and create more jobs. Representative Mark Kahrs says he owns a business and understands the benefits a broader base of tax payers would bring Kansas.
Lawmakers have less than 90 days to figure out all of the issues and balance the budget.
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