Gov. Laura Kelly argues Kansans deserve bipartisan progress on taxes, health care, K-12 policy

Topeka – Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly encouraged the Republican-dominated Legislature on Tuesday to take a bipartisan approach to the political issues of taxation, health care and education, while giving Kansans a sustainable state government budget.

Kelly, who postponed the annual State of the Union address in early January after it was falsely believed he had contracted COVID-19, stuck to familiar themes and legislative priorities. She urged members of the House and Senate to consider a $500 million tax program that swiftly eliminated the state sales tax on groceries, created a state sales tax holiday on school supplies, and cut Social Security income from the state income tax. Protected.

The governor urged lawmakers to pursue meaningful water policy reform and to avoid politicizing the K-12 public schools that serve nearly 500,000 students. She extended recommendations to expand eligibility for Medicaid, legalize medical marijuana, accelerate workforce training, and respond to the rural housing crisis by taking action.

Kelly and the legislature collaborated on the legislation materializing 286 bills in his first term—all of which required some measure of bipartisanship. He outlined a comparable vision for his second term, fully aware Republicans hold supremacy in the Senate and House. The GOP leadership has given no indication that they intend to reduce their numerical advantage as they pursue a conservative agenda.

Kelly said, “We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but the truth is when we’ve banded together have we made real progress.” “That is why I am asking you to meet again in the middle tonight. On so many issues facing our state — from tax relief to water to health care — the best solutions are not Republican or Democrat. They will come through compromise and cooperation. In the next four years, we should see each other as partners, not enemies.

‘Explain Yourself’

Kelly said she would fiercely oppose aggressive tax cuts that threaten the stability of the state budget. He pointed to state income tax cuts advanced a decade ago by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback would be unacceptable. The Brownback tax program, after years of budget wrangling, was mostly abandoned in 2017 when the Legislature voted to override his veto of a repeal bill.

“Let me be clear: I will stand against any irresponsible tax proposals that destroy that foundation,” Kelly said. “We’ve been there before. We know where this leads. And we can’t go back. Not for the debt. Crumbling roads. An overwhelmed foster care system. And, perhaps the most devastating of all underfunded schools. We We can’t go back to the days when financial irresponsibility robbed our Kansas students of opportunity here in Topeka.

The aim should be to adopt fiscally sound tax changes that the state can afford in the long run and serve the interests of working families and seniors, he said.

The governor’s budget provides for the repeal of the 4% state sales tax on groceries this summer. In 2022, the Legislature and Kelly agreed on a plan to gradually remove the 6.5% state sales tax on food. Its first phase took place on January 1, when 2.5 percentage points were deducted. The law won’t make it void until January 2025.

The Democratic governor said, “There is no reason why Kansans should ever look at their grocery receipts and see this tax.” “People can’t stand it. People don’t deserve it. And there’s no need to wait for 2025.

He also proposed removing the state sales tax on diapers and feminine hygiene products and suggested a four-day back-to-school sales tax exemption each August for those who buy school supplies.

In addition, it recommended that the Legislature provide relief for retirees by raising the income threshold to $100,000 for Social Security benefits to apply to state income taxes. Under current law, Kansas retirees earning $75,000 or less per year do not pay state income tax on Social Security. If they earn $1 more, their entire Social Security income must be subject to state income tax.

“These are all ideas that Republicans and Democrats have proposed and supported in the past,” Kelly said.

special education

Kelly introduced the legislators’ guest in the House chamber – Danny Robeson, a fifth-grader in the Shawnee Mission School District. He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and impaired vision and needs extra support to learn alongside peers at school through special education services. He sat on the balcony with his mother, Laura, a former teacher who volunteered at his school.

The governor recommended that the current Legislature provide full funding for special education programs in K-12 schools across the state. She said the lack of funding for special education affects every student in school as districts deplete resources to provide services for students like Danny.

“Laura has seen firsthand what the funding gap means,” Kelly said. “Laura sometimes has to keep Danny home from school because there is not enough staff to make sure he can learn safely.”

The governor said she would oppose any attempt by legislators and special interest groups to turn parents against classroom teachers, communities against public schools or youth against the teaching profession. The legislative agenda introduced by Senate President Ty Masterson and House Speaker Dan Hawkins includes a parental rights bill, including avenues for challenging library and classroom materials, and transgender student sports based on the sex assigned at birth. participate in.

Kelly said, “I will oppose politicians who seek to gain political mileage at the expense of our students and our families.” “Our students should not be used as political pawns. never. We can all agree that our children do better when parents and teachers are involved in their education. So, instead of distracting ourselves from wage issues, let’s focus on giving them both the resources and support they need.

Kelly renewed his pitch to expand eligibility for Medicaid to more than 100,000 low-income Kansans. The legislature has blocked changes to the state’s Medicaid proposals for years and in the process set aside $6 billion in federal funding that the state should have received. The governor said the expansion would have created 23,000 jobs by now.

“I know I sound like a broken record, but that’s only because we have a broken health care system,” she said. “Many rural hospitals have closed their doors. When this happens, communities are devastated. These Kansa have to drive for hours to get their basic care.

Kelly urged legislators to invest state resources in mental health services and to deal with the increase in opioid overdose deaths in Kansas. He said the response should include funding for naloxone for schools to deal with student overdoses and action to decriminalize fentanyl test strips so people know more about the ingredients of the drugs they take.

workforce development

Kelly worked with the Kansas Department of Commerce to recruit new business to Kansas, including Panasonic in De Soto, Hilmar Cheese in Dodge City, Amber Wave in Philipsburg and Bartlett Grain in Cherryvale. Since the start of her administration in 2019, she said Kansas had documented more than $15 billion in new capital investment and the creation or retention of 54,000 jobs.

However, he warned that the economic growth would expose the shortage of skilled labor in the state. He said the state should increase funding for a registered apprenticeship program at the Commerce Department that currently serves 3,500 Kansans.

Kelly said the evidence was clear from Goodland to Liberal and beyond in western Kansas that dwindling water supplies could become a disaster. Parts of that region of the state have an estimated 10 years’ worth of water to operate the agricultural economy.

“Waiting for a miracle is not an option,” the governor said.

He said the state water plan was fully funded last year for the first time since 2009. The state paid off $30 million in reservoir-linked debt to put the money into investments that would work for growers and irrigators concerned about water quality and quantity. Told.

The governor recommended lawmakers to approve the bill to legalize the consumption of marijuana for medical purposes. In the past, the House passed a bill that was ignored by the Senate. Forty-nine other states allow people to consume marijuana for chronic pain, seizure disorders, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Kelly said most physicians agree that medical marijuana should be part of a comprehensive palliative care plan.

“In fact,” she said, “just a few weeks ago, just before Christmas, police raided the hospital room of a seriously ill man in Hayes. Greg Bretz was using marijuana to ease his pain.” He was then ordered to appear in court despite not being able to get out of bed. We all know that was ridiculous.

They said Bratz died two weeks ago – the first week of the 2023 legislative session – and his passing shows the folly of state law forbidding the use of marijuana for health reasons.

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