Storm system Brownback continues to ravage the state of Kansas unabated, and the next casualty involves some good old fashioned school austerity bombing.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget cuts about $127.4 million from state support to local school districts, according to a report released Tuesday by the state Department of Education.
Some Senate Republican leaders dispute that the cut is that deep, saying the Education Department figure doesn’t account for spending on bonds and interest for school construction or payments to the state retirement fund.
The governor’s plan, released Friday, is to roll four major categories of spending into block grants to school districts. The block grants will include the money now spent in general state aid, supplemental state aid, capital outlay aid and the school district finance fund.
This year’s budget for those categories is almost $3.14 billion. The block grants proposed by the governor would total slightly more than $3 billion.
Block grants for schools that are already badly underfunded to the point where the state supreme court ordered Brownback to spend more, huh. This should go over well. Oh, but here’s the best part.
More broadly, Kansas state workers’ pension funds are also being used to patch Brownback’s fiscal gap. He is proposing to cut state payments to pension funds by $446 million over three fiscal years including the current one while also refinancing some of the funds’ debts. But the executive director of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System says Brownback’s proposed tweaks will ultimately cost the state more than 8 times what they save in the short term.
The near-term cuts would raise long-term costs by $3.7 billion — nearly a quarter of the current size of the pension system. Reneging on pension obligations in the short term and creating larger retirement system problems in the long term helps create political pressure to cut workers’ retirement benefits down the road, according to critics of similar maneuvers in states like New Jersey.
Another big-ticket Brownback cut strips roughly $300 million in transportation department funding over the next couple years — a move that shares the penny-wise, pound-foolish DNA of Brownback’s schools and pensions cuts. The road repair cuts will save a little bit of money now, but “all you’re going to do is create bigger problems for yourself later,” the head of a trade group for heavy construction firms in Kansas City told the Star.
And that’s on top of his plan to raise cigarette and liquor taxes so he can keep cutting the state’s income taxes, which caused all this mess in the first place.
If you want to see what a Republican budget will do to the country should they get control of the whole playing field in 2016, look no further than the tornado ripping through Kansas right now.