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While Tax Cuts Are Pushed in Missouri, Kansas Supreme Court Rules Legislature Underfunding Schools

Across the border in Kansas, an interesting story is being play out. Two years ago, Kansas eliminated its income tax on "passthrough" businesses like LLC's and sole proprietorships. This created a significant drain on state revenues and forced the state to cut back significantly on funding for public education. During this same time, a lawsuit was being pursued by a group of public school parents that believed the state was violating its constitutional duty to equitably and adequately fund its public schools.

On Friday, the Supreme Court handed down its ruling: the state was both inadequately and inequitably funding its education system. The court ordered an immediate appropriation of $170 million to address the inequity that existed between wealthy school districts (mostly suburban) and poor (mostly rural and urban) districts. Additionally, the court sent the case back to a lower court to determine the amount by which the state is required to increase its funding to a level that would be considered adequate.

This final action likely means that the case could drag on for several months, if not years. States across the country are monitoring the developments in Kansas as they consider recourse to funding cuts that have plagued public schools throughout the country for the past several years.

As Missouri considers numerous tax cuts to "mimic" the irresponsible actions taken by Kansas, legislators should be aware of the ramifications of those actions in our neighboring state. As Governor Nixon is making progress to achieving the goal of fully funding the state foundation formula in the next two years, the legislature is still considering numerous proposals that would dramatically hurt the state's ability to make up the nearly $600 million shortfall.

HB 1253 & 1297 and HB 1295, sponsored by Rep. TJ Berry (R-Kearney) which have passed the Missouri House and are pending in the Senate, would together funnel nearly a billion dollars away from public education. SB666, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Kirkwood) which received first-round approval in the Senate last week, would cost nearly $400 million in the current fiscal year by giving an immediate tax rebate of .75% of their property value to every residential property owner in the state. Creating a situation where residents with more expensive homes would see the largest tax break.

It has become clear that any bill that significantly cuts taxes while the state's commitment to public education is unmet, would be met with a veto by Governor Nixon. Over the weekend, Gov. Nixon referred to SB 666 as a "Money for Mansions" plan and stated his opposition. This comes after publicly stating his opposition to HB 1253, HB 1257 and HB 1295 in previous weeks.