Education funding and taxes came up time and again Saturday as local citizens expressed frustration during the annual Legislative Forum hosted by the Marysville Chamber of Commerce. A crowd of perhaps eighty, double the usual size, heard from State Senator Elaine Bowers, and State Representative Sharon Schwarz. In her opening remarks, Schwarz addressed a proposal from urban legislators that would change the way farmland is valued for taxation. She expressed concern for attacks on agriculture, and Bowers later concurred on a different matter that many of the issues coming up divide less along party lines, and more urban versus rural. The governor has indicated he does not favor ag land reevaluation, and the issue is not expected to proceed.
Once the floor opened for questions, cuts to education funding immediately came up. The issue reappeared several more times. It was reported that a bill in each house dealing with the proposed cuts was introduced as recently as Thursday. Schwarz and Bowers emphasized that the debate on the governor’s proposal would continue, and that once a budget is established, revenue sources, including the potential to revamp the tax structure, would be considered.
An idea that would move local elections from a spring ballot, to a combined fall ballot with state and federal elections, is reportedly drawing strong resistance from local school boards, county commissions and city councils. Marshall County Clerk Sonja Stohs spoke passionately against the idea, citing several concerns. Another issue with elections brought up was local concern with another idea that would limit candidates with ties to local schools being ruled ineligible to run for school board. Consensus on both issues seemed to be to leave matters as they are.
Several citizens commented on tax issues, with it seems as many opinions as people in the room, but an underlying dissatisfaction with Governor Brownback’s efforts to reduce individual income taxes, and eliminate state income taxes for some small businesses was heard. Other concerns raised, include increasing regulations and paperwork for nursing home staff, who in turn have less time for patient interaction, and a consensus seemed against a bill considering alcohol sales in grocery stores that Uncorked Kansas is again promoting.