Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brownback Approach during Schools Dispute Diverges from 2015 Tax Debate

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Brownback Approach during Schools Dispute Diverges from 2015 Tax Debate

Article excerpt

When Gov. Sam Brownback strode out before a bank of television cameras this past week to speak about the special legislative session he had just called to address school finance, he did something he doesn't always do.

He told the Legislature what he wants.

Brownback, the second-term Republican chief executive, faced withering criticism a year ago for his apparent lack of public engagement as the Statehouse became mired in gridlock over how to solve a gaping budget deficit. So far, he is taking a different approach.

The governor made clear lawmakers should boost school funding by $38 million in order to ensure the state's school funding system passes constitutional muster with the Kansas Supreme Court, which has ruled funds aren't distributed equitably and has set a June 30 deadline for lawmakers to make changes. Lawmakers will convene June 23.

By publicly expounding the $38 million number, Brownback put himself ahead of other Republican legislative leaders who had not openly endorsed the figure. Brownback did signal that lawmakers may need to make other policy changes to garner support for the extra spending -- some legislators have floated the idea of a constitutional amendment to restrict the Supreme Court.

The Wednesday news conference struck a different tone than other Brownback appearances. The governor minimized anti-court rhetoric and stayed away from the most aggressive remarks that some lawmakers have deployed against the court.

The early engagement in the legislative process contrasts with how the governor handled the 2015 dispute over the budget. A year ago, lawmakers struggled for weeks to find a way to solve the budget deficit, wrangling over a series of revenue proposals. For much of the spring, Brownback remained silent on what he thought lawmakers should do.

Eventually, he released his own plan, but lawmakers wrestled for two more weeks before coming up with a solution. The plan passed after Brownback appeared at a tense joint House and Senate GOP caucus meeting. …

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