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Tuesday, July 14, 2020

State Legislator Calls For Utility Surcharges To Fund Education

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Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids, and graduated from Valley Heights High School in May of 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. After stops at KFRM and KCLY radio in Clay Center, he joined KNDY in 2002 as a board operator and play by play announcer. Derek is now responsible for the digital content of Dierking Communications, Inc. six radio stations. In 2005 Derek joined the staff of KCFX radio in Kansas City as a production coordinator for the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, which airs on over 94 radio stations across 12 Midwest states and growing. In 2018 he became the Studio Coordinator at the Cumulus Kansas City broadcast center for Kansas City Chiefs Football.

A Republican leader in the Kansas Senate says he’ll propose a fee on all utility bills in the state to help fund education.

Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a from Overland Park, says his plan calls for a $3 monthly fee on residential electric, gas and water bills in the state. Those with all three utilities would pay $9 more a month. For commercial customers, the monthly fee would be $10 per bill.

The whole package would raise $150 million a year, according to estimates.

Denning said, “Everybody wants to pay for their schools. I’m convinced of that.”

The Legislature returns to work Monday with every big issue, including school finance, still unresolved. Lawmakers have to close a projected $900 million budget gap over the next two fiscal years and find millions more for public education to satisfy the state Supreme Court.

Denning says a utility fee is not only broad but manageable and stable.

Schools take well over 50 percent of the state budget.

While Denning says he’s fine with the regressive nature of the fee, other lawmakers are not.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Democrat from Topeka, says the fee will be a “difficult sell” in the Legislature.

He said that to put a surcharge on utility bills would be a hardship for the elderly on a fixed income.

Hensley says he would rather raise income taxes to not only balance the budget but put an extra $150 million a year into K-12 public education.

While the Senate has no school funding plan on the table, the House is working on a bill that would add $150 million a year into school funding over the next five years for a total of $750 million.

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