Tax Hike for Kansas Schools and Roads Faces Long Odds

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A proposal by an unusual alliance of Kansas teachers and business leaders to raise sales-tax revenues and split the profits equally between education and highway contruction appears headed for defeat in the legislature.

Lobbyists predicted last week that the House would reject an amended version of the bill that would earmark all of the new revenues--estimated at $1.4 billion over 11 years--for road construction.

Opposition to the bill, they said, centers on a general reluctance to raise taxes, rather than the House transportation committee's recent vote to give none of the new funds to schools, which would have received $62 million a year under the original plan.

Spokesmen for the Kansas nea, the only state education group that backed the sales-tax hike, said the union has not given up hope of securing more state school aid. Members of the National Education Association affiliate are scheduled to hold a rally at the Statehouse this week to press the governor and lawmakers to allocate a third of Kansas' $300-million budget surplus for education.

Business Approached Union

The proposal to raise the sales tax by one-half cent, to 4.5 cents, was drafted by Economic Lifelines, a co8alition of business and trade groups that has been pressing for a comprehensive highway program.

Judith C. Runnels, Economic Lifeline's executive director, said last week that her group approached the union to seek its endorsement for the plan because many of the coalition's members have a long-standing interest in education.

She acknowledged, however, that the group also felt that lawmakers would be more likely to support a tax hike that benefited education than one that would only benefit highway construction.

Craig F. Grant, a lobbyist for the Kansas nea, said other state eduel10lcation groups were reluctant to support the proposed hike because they oppose using state general-fund revenues for highways, which are now supported primarily by user fees.

"It was a trade-off for us," he said of the union's decision to back the bill. "This was a compromise as part of any coalition."

Lack of Support

Senator Bill T. Morris, chairman of the Senate transportation committee, said he may introduce a similar bill in that chamber if the House version if defeated.

He noted, though, that "there seems to be a lack of support" for a tax increase.

Mr. Morris and other supporters of an increase point out that the legislature earlier this year approved Gov. Mike Hayden's plan to cut state income taxes by $80 million. As a result, they say, lawmakers are unwilling to pass a sales-tax hike that would more than offset the income-tax reduction.

Union officials said additional state funding for education is particularly crucial this year because districts are bracing themselves for the effects of a statewide property-reappraisal program. They said the changes will force many districts, particularly those in industrialized areas, to boost their property-tax rates substantially.--ef

Vol. 08, Issue 26

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