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Kan. Senate Scraps Bill To Ditch Property Taxes For Education Funding

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The Kansas Senate has effectively killed a proposal that would have eliminated property taxes as a source of revenue for public schools.

As the legislative session drew to a close last week, the Senate simply declined to act on the measure passed by the House earlier this month.

"It's dead. It's history. It's defeated," said Mike Matson, a spokesman for Gov. Bill Graves.

Mr. Matson added that the Governor will assemble a citizens' task force with representation from both the public and private sector to study alternatives to the state's current school-finance system.

Although the legislature will reconvene this week for a three-day wrap-up session, there is virtually no chance the property tax measure will be resurrected.

It was unclear, however, whether the defeat of the property-tax measure in Kansas will slow the momentum in other states seeking alternative ways to pay for public education.

Several states, notably Wisconsin, have considered similar measures that would diminish the reliance on property taxes since Michigan dramatically reduced them as a source of school funding in 1993.

Entrenched Revenue Source

The Kansas House had voted 69 to 56 to approve the bill, which would have removed property taxes from the mix of funds that are used to support public schools.

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A Long Shot

Backers of the measure predicted that the revenue lost from property taxes would have been recouped through increases in the state's income and sales taxes.

State education officials, however, had estimated that $600 million a year would be lost if the property tax were eliminated as a revenue source for schools.

Even its supporters realized that the bill faced strong opposition in the Senate. "I don't have any illusions that this is going to become law," Rep. Doug Mays said during the House debate.

The property-tax measure had not been popular in wealthy areas of the state because it would have increased individual income taxes by 18 percent.

In many cases, well-to-do taxpayers would have had to pay more in taxes than they would have gained by the abolition of the 35-mill property levy for schools.

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