Kan. Governor Set To Sign Bill To Reduce State Property-Tax Levy

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Gov. Bill Graves of Kansas is expected to sign a compromise school-finance bill that reduces a statewide property-tax levy, ending, at least for now, a legislative deadlock over efforts to scrap the property tax as a source of school funding.

The Republican governor received the measure last week. It would cut a statewide property levy by 2 mills in the current fiscal year and by another 2 mills next year. He has 10 days to sign the bill.

Mr. Graves had engaged in a lengthy standoff with House Republicans over their efforts to abolish a statewide 35-mill property tax enacted four years ago as a part of a school-finance-reform package. (See Education Week, May 8, 1996.)

After the bill had been passed by both houses, Mr. Graves issued a statement that praised lawmakers for achieving their primary responsibility, which he defined as "the funding of our children's education."

The debate over the 35-mill levy pushed what usually is a relatively short wrap-up to the regular legislative session into an eight-day marathon.

Even though many lawmakers said the compromise bill failed to make the kinds of extensive cuts they wanted, the Senate passed the measure on a vote of 36-3 early this month. The House approved the bill almost immediately afterward, on a 73-49 vote.

State Aid Rises

Led by Rep. Phillip D. Kline, the chairman of the House taxation committee, the House had backed a plan that would have eliminated the entire 35-mill statewide school property tax by 2002.

But, after the House approved the new spending plan over his objections, Mr. Kline, a Republican, said, "We've had a yearlong debate, and there's not enough people who want tax relief."

As part of the plan, the state would pay an additional $22 per pupil to school districts, raising per-pupil spending to $3,648 in the 1996-97 school year, at a cost of $12 million.

The bill also would extend a provision called the "local option budget." The program allows districts to raise extra money from local property taxes.

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