Legislators review 2001 session at Saturday morning gathering
The sky is not falling in Kansas.
State Rep. Ken Wilk, R-Lansing, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the state's financial situation is not as drastic as it sounds.
Wilk, along with Sens. Bob Lyon, R-Winchester, and Mark Gilstrap, D-Kansas City, Kan., spoke to Tonganoxie residents Saturday at a legislative coffee.
"I can assure you that all the checks are going to clear next year," Wilk said. "Everything is going to be OK in the state of Kansas. But we do have some tough choices to make."
"The last I heard when we left the session, we were about $200 million short of what we thought we would have to work with over the next two years," he said.
But Lyon said the numbers should be kept in perspective.
"The cuts that they're talking about making are cuts in increases that we were anticipating to be able to do this year," Lyon said.
In regard to school funding, Richard Erickson, Tonganoxie school superintendent, said a way to increase funding would be to lower the property tax and increase the sales tax.
"The issue I'm a little concerned about is that the governor is out front providing leadership for this session and the Senate appears to be following," Erickson said. "But the House has put up a wall I don't understand that at least as far as education is concerned."
Wilk said, "There's been a group of people in the House who have worked with the governor for the last six years. They aren't necessarily on the same page as he is."
Wilk noted that the state currently spends an average of $7,465 on every student.
"That's a lot of money," Wilk said.
But, he said, Tonganoxie doesn't receive that much per pupil.
"I know you are hurting pretty bad in Tonganoxie," Wilk said. "Your total spending when you add it all up is just a little over $6,000 per student. I have another district in Leavenworth County that's way over $10,000."
Wilk compared the discrepancies to a Johnson County school district.
"Shawnee Mission is one of the richest school districts in the country," Wilk said. "Their average per student is just a little over $7,000 that's not even up to the state average in Kansas."
But, Wilk said school funding is not always fair.
"We've got to do something to correct some of the inequities," he said. However, he cautioned, schools would have to do their part.
"I'm going to be fair with education," Wilk said. "But we've got to get full disclosure on what schools are spending."
Lyon, a proponent of greater parental choice regarding educational providers, said that raising taxes to pour more money into existing educational systems isn't always the answer.
"I suggest looking at the typical cost of education in private education versus public education," Lyon said.
However, Lyon did say he favored a reduction in property tax and an increase in sales tax to fund education.
Gilstrap talked about the proposed reapportionment of Senate districts and said that 75 percent of his district is in Wyandotte County and 25 percent is in Leavenworth County. That may be changing, he said.
"Of the three senators in the district, mine was the only one that went up in numbers," Gilstrap said. "My area maybe moving farther into Leavenworth County."