The Governor’s Council on Tax Reform has released its interim report for consideration by the Kansas Legislature, following months of meetings by the Council.
Last year, Governor Laura Kelly issued Executive Order No. 19-11 establishing the bipartisan Governor’s Council on Tax Reform.
Governor Kelly directed the Council to assess the state’s tax system, explore strategies to increase both effectiveness and fairness, receive input from stakeholders across the state, and submit an initial report with assessments and recommendations.
The Council submitted its recommendations in December and has now released the full interim report, which includes details on those proposals.
Among notable recommendations are a food sales tax rebate targeted toward Kansans who need it most, and a return to implementation of the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund (LAVTRF) as a way to help local governments keep their property taxes low.
“I tasked the Council with an in-depth study of our tax structure,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “I am pleased with the diligent work the Council has done to research the current tax and budget situation in Kansas, and make sound recommendations that would return the state to a balanced approach of sales, income and property taxes. There’s a need for tax reform designed with adequacy, equity and stability in mind, and I welcome the Legislature’s consideration of the Council’s recommendations.”
The Council will continue working throughout 2020 and submit its final report prior to the start of the 2021 legislative session.
To access the full report, please visit: https://governor.kansas.gov/governors-council-on-tax-reform-report/
January 25, 2020
Life The Kansas legislature had passed a law banning dismemberment abortion with a bi-partisan supermajority vote. Who could act otherwise on such a horrendous act? Well, guess who. Last year the Kansas Supreme Court nullified the law by issuing an extreme ruling stating that our Kansas Constitution allows for late term dismemberment abortions. I bet you can’t find that in the constitution, but they say it is somehow implied. Our founding fathers would be shocked.
To correct this situation, in a rare move, the second week of session, the House and Senate held joint committee meetings on Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 1613 and House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 5019 referred to as Value Them Both. The resolutions would allow Kansans to vote on a constitutional amendment specifying the authority to enact laws on abortion is with the legislature. The constitutional amendment would reset the law as if the court ruling hadn’t occurred. It is not a ban on abortion as such, but it would allow the people, through their elected legislature, to regulate abortion.
I was asked to serve on the Senate Judiciary committee for the SCR hearings. The resolutions have passed out of committee and could be debated on the floor of each respective chamber next week. It was an honor to serve on the committee. I voted to pass the SCR to the full Senate.
Transparency You are always welcome to come to the Capitol and watch the legislative process. You may also follow the process or any bills on the internet at www.kslegislature.org. Most work is in committee during this time of the session. It is an important part of the process as people testify for or against bills and legislators have an opportunity to ask conferees questions.
Public Safety Employees and Volunteers The Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 45 increasing the penalty of a crime when a victim is a public safety employee or volunteer, such as a fireman or police officer. It passed on a vote 36 Yes and 1 No. I voted yes in support of those willing to put themselves in harm’s way for public safety.
It’s an honor and privilege serving as your Senator.
Governor Kelly unveils new KANSASWORKS Mobile Workforce Center
Topeka, Kan. – Governor Laura Kelly today joined Secretary of Commerce David Toland and KANSASWORKS Vice-Chair Carol Perry in unveiling the newest member of the KANSASWORKS Mobile Workforce Center fleet.
“Delivering effective workforce services to Kansas residents is a priority of my administration,” Governor Kelly said. “While there is a broad network of brick-and-mortar Workforce Centers across the state, not all Kansans can easily access those services. This Mobile Workforce Center will deliver those same quality services to individuals who might not otherwise have an opportunity to access them.”
The Mobile Workforce Center allows KANSASWORKS to provide workforce services in regions of the state that lack permanent Workforce Centers or face unusually high demand for workforce assistance. It includes six internet-ready computer stations to assist job seekers and employers, as well as an interactive SMART Board™ for presentations inside the center and a state-of-the-art audio visual system to support presentations outside the center.
In 2019, Mobile Workforce Centers were present at more than 60 job fairs and nearly 30 different community events. They were also dispatched as mobile response units to assist Kansans and Nebraskans impacted by tornadoes and flooding.
“Developing and retaining a strong pipeline of talent is key to the health and sustainability of Kansas’ economy,” Secretary Toland said. “KANSASWORKS plays an integral role in connecting job seekers to businesses, and the new Mobile Workforce Center will extend our reach into areas we may not have reached before.”
“One of our goals as a State Board is to increase accessibility to residents in rural Kansas communities, and I’m excited that we’re able to deploy a new tool to help us achieve that goal,” KANSASWORKS Board Chair David Harwood said. “The Mobile Workforce Center is staffed and equipped with the latest technology to enable our customers to receive the same levels of service they would experience in a physical Workforce Center.”
KANSASWORKS is the state’s public workforce system and provides a number of employment services such as assistance with job searches, resume writing and skills assessments to Kansas residents at no charge. They provide services through a network of 26 Workforce Centers across the state, Mobile Workforce Centers and online at kansasworks.com.
For more information or to request a Mobile Workforce Center in your area, visit kansascommerce.gov/mobileworkforce.
KDHE Secretary Delivers State of Public Health Address
Topeka – Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Secretary Lee Norman, MD, delivered “2020: The State of the Health of Kansans” to the Kansas Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee this morning. Dr. Norman will deliver the same presentation to the Kansas House Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. This is the first time KDHE has delivered such address to the Kansas Legislature.
“As the State Health Officer, it is my duty to look at the health of our state and provide education on what we as a state can do at an individual level, a community level and a government level,” said Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of KDHE. “Health isn’t just medical care. It’s our behaviors, our environment, our policies and our outcomes.”
Since 1990, Kansas has seen the greatest decline in its health rankings according to America’s Health Rankings published December 6, 2019.
“What this data suggests is that Kansas needs to improve access to care – addressing the shortage of medical professionals, financial impediments and geographic maldistribution among others,” said Dr. Norman. “It suggests that we have unhealthy behaviors that need to be remedied and that there’s a need for active illness prevention and intervention.”
Dr. Norman continued, “Every Kansan can take steps to improve our state’s health – increase your physical activity, be mindful of proper nutrition and make sure your family is up-to-date on immunizations. It’s also critical that we as a state look beyond ourselves and our families, to our neighbors and community members. It’s time for us to intervene and invest in the health of Kansans.”
Evergy Affirms Board and Management’s Focus on Delivering
Long-Term Value Creation and Serving Stakeholders’ Best Interests
Updates Stakeholders Regarding Dialogue with Elliott Management
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – January 21, 2020 – Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG), a vertically integrated, regulated, investor-owned electric utility created by the merger of Westar Energy and Great Plains Energy in June of 2018, today issued the following statement regarding the dialogue the Company has had with Elliott Management Corporation (Elliott):
In October 2019, we were approached by Elliott, which proposed two alternative paths for the Company to consider:
Since October, we have engaged in good faith with Elliott to fully understand and evaluate their proposals. As a part of this process, we have engaged Morgan Stanley as financial advisor and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP as legal counsel to assist management and the Board with an evaluation of Elliott’s proposals and our strategic plan.
We are open to evaluating opportunities that may create greater value and recognize that Elliott has different views regarding our strategic plan. At the same time, there are various considerations that we believe are important when evaluating the conclusions that Elliott has asserted in its letter.
As expressed to Elliott, we are confident in our ability to deliver long-term growth and shareholder value creation through the execution of our strategic plan. This plan includes maximizing operational savings from our 2018 merger, the share repurchase program we committed to when this merger was completed, paying a competitive dividend and making capital investment that will drive value.
We remain open to continuing our dialogue with Elliott. As we consider any opportunity, we are resolute in our commitment to serving the best interests of all Evergy stakeholders, including our shareholders, employees, customers and the communities we serve.
The support of our regulators is very important, and we will maintain an open, collaborative dialogue with them as we – and they – consider Elliott’s views.
Morgan Stanley is acting as financial advisor and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP is acting as legal advisor to the Company.
About Evergy, Inc.
Evergy, Inc. (NYSE: EVRG) provides clean, safe and reliable energy to 1.6 million customers in Kansas and Missouri. The 2018 combination of Kansas City Power and Light Company and Westar Energy to form Evergy created a leading energy company that provides value to shareholders and a stronger company for customers.
Evergy’s mission is to empower a better future. Today, half the power supplied to homes and businesses by Evergy comes from emission-free sources, creating more reliable energy with less impact to the environment. We will continue to innovate and adopt new technologies that give our customers better ways to manage their energy use.
For more information about Evergy, Inc., visit us at www.evergy.com.
Topeka, Kan. – Companies based in the state of Kansas have a new tool to help them succeed in selling their goods or services to customers around the world. The Kansas Market Access Program (K-MAP) lowers the end-user cost of international market research, export documentation and foreign business partner meetings, so Kansas companies can reach more customers and close more deals.
Emerging out of the public-private partnership between the Kansas Department of Commerce and the Wichita-based Kansas Global Trade Services, K-MAP is made available as a one-time opportunity. Interested companies are encouraged to apply before June 30, 2020, in order to ensure access to grant funding.
“The needs of Kansas exporters vary greatly,” Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “While Commerce already has a successful program designed to help companies participate in international trade shows (KITSAP), this new program provides assistance for a range of other activities vital to their success.”
Karyn Page, President & CEO of Kansas Global, adds, “We learned what works best when we implemented the state’s first export plan in Wichita. That’s why we asked the Kansas Legislature for this grant to be added to our contact. We found that having a flexible grant for companies to use is the sweetener they need to fast-track international sales.”
And they’re off… legislators trying to get as much as possible accomplished in 90 days. Our Kansas Constitution limits the legislature to 90 days in even number years.
Property Taxes. You have been telling me that increasing appraisals are automatically increasing your property taxes and I have been listening. This last summer I, with the help of other legislators, have been working on solutions. To increase taxes should require a vote by the commissioners and not automatically increase by the action of the appraiser. Being Chairmen of the Senate Tax Committee, I will be working on this as well as improving the process to appeal property taxes. Bills are being introduced to increase transparency and improve the process. I will keep you updated.
Kansas government has out-of-control spending. Last January, 2019, Governor Kelly submitted her large budget to the legislature and the legislature sent it back to her with $182 million dollars more spending then she requested. She could have line-item vetoed this increase but she didn’t. I did not support last year’s out of control budget and I will not support any reckless budget that spends more than we are taking in.
The Governor promised she wouldn’t raise taxes. A few days ago in this year’s State-of-the-State speech she said she would submit a budget that would honor her promise to cut taxes. However, in her budget presented the next day she asked for sales tax to be put on all digital video, audiobooks, pictures, greeting cards, games, and streaming services. That would increase state revenues by $26.7 million. Sounds like a tax increase to me.
The Governor also proposed $54 million in property tax relief. Kansans pay around $5 billion in property taxes. The $54 million Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction (LAVTR) the Governor proposed could provide a small temporary cut if local authorities pass the money on to the taxpayer. For example, a property tax bill of $1,000 could be reduced by $10 if all of the LAVTR was passed on to the taxpayer. That would not be a solution for the ever-increasing property appraisals that are automatically increasing your taxes. We need a solution that addresses the heart of the problem and that is what I am bringing forward in the Senate.
What about our President… He brought back prayer in our public schools last week.
It’s an honor and privilege serving as your Senator.
Citing its importance to Kansas exports and the state’s economy, Governor Laura Kelly and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam expressed praise today for Congressional passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
“This is an important and welcome development in Kansas, especially as our farmers and ranchers struggle to rebuild after an historic year of natural disasters,” Governor Kelly said. “With more than 95 percent of the world’s consumers living outside the United States, world markets offer tremendous growth opportunities for Kansas agriculture. USMCA will create enhanced export opportunities and help Kansans capitalize on the increased global demand for food and agriculture products.”
Secretary Beam also cited the positive impact for Kansas producers.
“This agreement is great news for Kansas, especially Kansas agriculture,” he said. “Mexico and Canada are consistently in the top three trade partners for Kansas so maintaining these strong relationships is critical for agricultural exports in the state.”
Canada and Mexico are Kansas’ first and third largest export markets for Kansas food and agricultural commodities, totaling nearly $1.58 billion in 2018 or 41.1% of our total trade.
USMCA is a significant development for Kansas farmers and ranchers. With a downturn in commodity prices, the agriculture sector is at a critical crossroads. The passage of USMCA provides Kansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses a degree of certainty during some uncertain times. It also instills confidence in the state’s top trade partners and neighbors that the U.S. can be counted on as reliable suppliers of food and agricultural commodities.
According to the office of U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, under USMCA all food and agricultural products that have had zero tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) will remain at zero tariffs. Since the original NAFTA did not eliminate all tariffs on agricultural trade between the United States and Canada, the USMCA will create new market access opportunities for United States exports to Canada of dairy, poultry, and eggs, and in exchange the United States will provide new access to Canada for some dairy, peanut, and a limited amount of sugar and sugar-containing products.
Governor Laura Kelley’s plan keeps promises to Kansas schools, expands affordable healthcare, pays over $600 million in debt, provides property, food sales tax relief
Topeka, Kan. — The second budget recommendation offered by Governor Laura Kelly delivers on her continued commitment to rebuilding Kansas after a decade of crisis. It maintains funding for Kansas public schools, includes funding to expand Medicaid, continues to phase out the “Bank of KDOT,” pays over $600 million in debt and provides over $117 million in commonsense tax relief.
“Kansas has made tremendous strides in recovering from the last decade of fiscal chaos,” Kelly said. “This balanced budget builds on that progress and positions Kansas to begin a new decade of shared prosperity and growth. I look forward to input from lawmakers and working with them to enact it.”
Kelly’s budget restores fundamental principles of Kansas fiscal responsibility:
Additionally, the Kelly budget accomplishes critical policy goals:
“I appreciate the bipartisan collaboration between the Executive and Legislative branches throughout the last year to rebuild Kansas after a decade of crisis,” Kelly said. “This budget will help ensure our progress. It honors all the funding promises made by the 2019 Legislature, continues to sustainably and fairly re-invest in Kansas communities and provides much-needed tax relief in the form of a food sales tax rebate and property tax cuts. I am confident that if we work together to enact this commonsense agenda, Kansas will undoubtedly begin the new decade strongly positioned to prosper and grow.”
The Governor’s full budget recommendation can be viewed here.
Governor Kelly delivers the State of the State address
The following State of the State address is from Governor Laura Kelly:
Mr. Speaker, Madam President, Madam Chief Justice, Lt. Governor Rogers, members of the Legislature, Cabinet officers, leaders of the Kansas tribes, honored guests, and fellow Kansans.
It is my high honor to stand before you this evening to report on the progress of my administration, and to share my plans for the year ahead.
We have much to discuss tonight. But before I begin, please welcome back the third “First Gentleman” in Kansas history, my husband, Dr. Ted Daughety.
Ted still misses his garden and his darkroom, but he’s adjusting to our new home by adding some personal touches. He has taken an interest in putting the “Cedar” back in Cedar Crest with the planting of new trees. He also started a vegetable garden. He even has his own compost pile.
In addition to all of that, he continues to practice medicine full time. So, Ted and I have settled into life at the Governor’s Residence.
In fact, it was the backdrop for our family’s biggest news of 2019! It was a joy to watch our daughter Kathleen wed our new son-in-law, Mathias, at Cedar Crest earlier this year, with our younger daughter, Molly, standing by her sister’s side.
Speaking of siblings – my sister, Kay and my brother Paul are also here tonight from Colorado.
And listening in online from Richmond, Virginia, is my brother, Father Fred.
As everyone here knows, it is not easy to be related to someone who serves in public office. I am grateful to my family for the support they have provided from the very first day of this journey.
Since we’re talking about family members, I dare not exclude the four-legged variety. Frances, the First Cat of Kansas, sends her regards.
If there is one thing I didn’t expect this past year, it was the widespread interest in my cat. She’s made lots of new friends on social media. She gets more news coverage than I do.
Frances asked me to relay a special message to Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers, who is here with his wife, Kris.
Lynn — Frances said to tell you she’s very close to exceeding your following on Twitter. And that you need to step up your game.
As everyone here has no doubt come to know, Lynn Rogers is an exceptional lieutenant governor. In case you couldn’t tell, he’s also unfailingly good-natured.
Lynn hit the road almost as soon as we took our oaths of office last year, logging more than 17,000 miles on a statewide listening tour, engaging Kansans in our efforts to establish the Office of Rural Prosperity.
Housing shortages, affordable childcare, revitalizing Main Street corridors, protecting rural hospitals, expanding rural broadband — these are all concerns that weigh heavily on the minds of Kansans. With the right mix of state support and local ingenuity, I am confident that the Office of Rural Prosperity will serve as an invaluable partner for Kansas communities to sustain and enhance our state’s rural heritage.
Thank you, Lynn, for your work on this very important issue.
In fact, thank you to my entire Cabinet – seated in the west gallery, behind me.
No governor can succeed without a strong and supportive team, and I could not have asked for a more qualified group of leaders to help rebuild our state.
I realize, for those who have been around the Kansas Capitol a session or two, these annual messages might sometimes seem a bit routine. But tonight carries a special distinction.
For the first time in Kansas history, women sit at the helm of all three branches of Kansas government.
It is my privilege to serve as our state’s third female governor, alongside the first female Senate President, Susan Wagle. And the second female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Marla Luckert.
Kansas reached this milestone at a fitting moment, as 2020 also marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.
Anniversaries and new years are always important opportunities to reflect on time gone by, and on progress made. We have another such opportunity this evening, as we usher in not just a new legislative session, but a new decade.
So let us go back for just a moment and remember where we’ve been.
Almost ten years ago — to the day — we gathered in this chamber for the 2010 state of the state address. Kansas found itself in the throes of the worst economic downturn in 80 years. The Great Recession had necessitated $1 billion dollars in spending cuts. Another $400 million dollar budget gap still loomed before us. It was brutal.
It’s probably for the best that we did not realize, in that moment, that this would be the brightest fiscal outlook Kansas would have for another seven years.
Of course, you know what happened next. A new administration was in place one year later, and the saga of the failed tax experiment began soon thereafter. Instead of recovering from the Great Recession alongside every other state in the nation, Kansas settled in for six more years of financial chaos. This time, it was self-inflicted.
By the time I stood before you as governor in 2019, Kansas was on life support. The state had racked up record amounts of debt, schools had been cut to the bone, taxes on groceries had been increased until they were the highest in the nation, agencies had been decimated, and Kansas had generally become a national model for what not to do.
After devastating cuts and relentless crises – a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers demonstrated courage and conviction when they joined forces in the face of adversity to stop the bleeding in 2017.
That bipartisan effort — one that so many of you helped bring to fruition — changed everything.
So, although it was a decade in which much went wrong, we rebounded in a way that only Kansas can.
Over the last 12 months, Kansas added 12,400 private sector jobs.
The state not only reached a new employment record, our unemployment rate fell to its lowest point in 40 years.
Since I became governor, we fulfilled our promise to properly fund Kansas schools.
We reinvested in public safety, and worked tirelessly to stabilize our foster care system.
We increased pay and lowered health insurance premiums for thousands of public employees and their families.
We’re paying off debt so we can eventually establish a state rainy day fund and better prepare for financial emergencies.
In US News and World Report’s “Best States” rankings, Kansas jumped seven spots in 2019. We now rank 15th highest in education. We scored 7th best in infrastructure.
In fact, I’m proud to report that we improved in almost every category, including the economy and fiscal stability.
I’m also proud to report that in CNBC’s annual “Top States for Business,” Kansas was declared the “comeback state of 2019.”
Above all, I am proud to report that Kansas has ended a turbulent decade on a high note. As we look to the future, the state of our state grows stronger every day.
We have so many reasons to be hopeful tonight. But make no mistake: one year of progress cannot erase a decade of damage. Two of the most important sectors of the Kansas economy remain incredibly fragile.
As a major Boeing supplier, Spirit AeroSystems was hit hard by the recent suspension of the 737 Max production. Even as we speak, thousands of Wichita families are suddenly fearful that soon they may be unable to provide for their families.
I’ve been in constant communication with local, state and federal officials since temporary layoffs were announced late last week. I instructed my Labor Secretary, Delia Garcia, to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to help workers, Spirit and other Kansas businesses that will be negatively impacted.
Unfortunately, Kansas agriculture also finds itself at a precarious moment.
Between historic flooding last spring and escalating trade tensions over the last two years, net farm incomes have dropped 50 percent from their peak in 2013.
Congress could certainly help, and they could start by ratifying the pending USMCA trade agreement.
I have been a vocal proponent of the USMCA agreement from the beginning. I commend the U.S. House of Representatives for passing this agreement, and urge the U.S. Senate to do the same.
It’s critical for Kansas. We are indeed an export state. And with us tonight, from our second largest customer, Canada, is Consul General Stephane Lessard.
Thank you for being here, Consul General.
When it comes to the livelihoods of Kansas families and businesses, we won’t wait on Washington and the USMCA agreement however. We must take matters into our own hands.
The International Trade Division at the Department of Commerce was dismantled in recent years. I’ve instructed my Commerce Secretary, David Toland, to focus on rebuilding this division.
As I said before, Kansas is an export state, and we cannot compete in a global economy without strong international trading partners. We must breathe new life into our efforts to increase exports and compel international companies to choose Kansas.
I’m not just focused on convincing companies to choose Kansas. I’m also focused on the people who choose Kansas.
The effort to reconnect people with their state government and to rebuild public trust — starts at the top.
From day one, I’ve wanted Kansans to hear from me about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. Kansans deserve to engage directly with their Governor.
That’s why I’ve hosted “Kansan to Kansan” townhall meetings regularly since I took office. This fall, when I was building the state budget, I went on a listening tour to hear directly from the people about their priorities.
I’ve talked extensively — and candidly — with Kansans about what we’ve accomplished, and where we’d like to go in the year ahead. In turn, they’ve spoken candidly with me about their concerns, and how state government can better serve them.
I’d like to share their thoughts and concerns with you, and what I think we can do about them, together, in 2020.
I promised Kansans that I would be “the education governor.” I consider the progress we’ve made on public education to be our most important accomplishment to date — but we have more to do.
Last year I stood here and asked you to put aside partisanship and work with me to finally provide schools with the resources they need to be successful. You did it, and I applaud you.
I was proud to stand with many of you that Saturday morning last April, as hundreds of public school teachers packed into the ceremonial office to witness the signing of legislation that would end a decades-long legal battle over school finance.
It was truly a remarkable moment. Not just because of what we accomplished, but how we accomplished it.
None of the teachers who attended the bill signing cared if it was a “Democrat” plan or a “Republican” plan. They cared only that their schools would be funded. That it might help improve Kansas teacher salaries, which rank 41st in the nation. They cared that it would ensure educators have what they need to serve Kansas children well.
Let’s keep that in mind as we forge ahead.
Restoring school funding was a critical first step. But now I challenge us all to engage in a bigger and bolder conversation about “what’s next.”
Soon after taking office, I established the Council on Education. I asked the Council to re-evaluate every corner of our educational ecosystem — early childhood, K-12, higher education and workforce development — and to bring those players to the same table. I also engaged business and industry, labor, and other stakeholders so we may cultivate the workforce that Kansas will need to compete in the years ahead.
It is time to align all of these moving parts so that we can put Kansas at the forefront of growth and innovation. The work of this Council will be essential in helping us shape the future of Kansas education, the Kansas workforce, and Kansas as a state.
I want to recognize the co-chairs of this council – Dr. Cindy Lane, the former KCK Public Schools Superintendent and Dr. Fred Dierksen, current Superintendent of Dodge City Public Schools, who are here tonight in the gallery. Thank you for all your hard work – and the hard work yet to come.
Our progress on education is a valuable reminder to all of us that Kansans do not keep partisan score — even when clever sports analogies are employed. Kansans care about results. That’s what we get when we work together.
We can deliver bipartisan results again in 2020.
And we can start with one of the most urgent issues we face.
This must be the year Kansas becomes the 37th state to expand Medicaid.
Apparently, you have heard that Kansas made a little bit of news on this front last week.
After weeks of tough negotiations and lots of give and take, we developed a proposal that will not only expand healthcare to 150,000 Kansans, but also has the potential to lower health insurance premiums in the marketplace.
It was an honor to stand with so many of you — Republican and Democrat, Representatives and Senators — who have been committed to getting this done for Kansas.
We have so many reasons to bring this across the finish line.
In July, a study of mortality rates in non-expansion states estimated that 288 Kansans have died prematurely every year from 2014 to 2017 specifically due to our failure to adopt expansion.
Another study, released in November, showed that expansion improves infant and maternal health.
Yet another found the rate of rural hospital closure increases significantly in non-expansion states like Kansas.
Just last week, a study was released that linked Medicaid Expansion to a decline in opioid abuse.
There is a stack of rigorous, nonpartisan evidence to illustrate how critical KanCare expansion is to the health and welfare of our state. It grows by the day.
So does public support.
The number of expansion states continues to increase. No state has reversed its decision to expand. And voters across the ideological spectrum continue to reaffirm their support for expansion in election after election.
I’m talking about in states like Kentucky. Louisiana. Virginia. States where access to affordable healthcare drove people to the polls.
I’m talking about Nebraska, where 54% of voters approved Medicaid Expansion by ballot initiative in 2018.
I’m talking about Oklahoma, where in October a record number of petitions were submitted to put Medicaid expansion on the 2020 ballot.
And, yes, I’m even talking about Missouri. Where expansion is well on its way to a statewide vote, with momentum growing by the day.
If nothing else, surely maintaining Kansas’ 159-year tradition of beating Missouri is something we can all get behind…
In all seriousness:
As I said last week, compromise is hard. It is messy. It is slow. But it is so worth it.
Now it’s up to all of you to finish the task.
When we do add this to our list of bipartisan accomplishments, it will not only save lives, it will close the book on a long, senseless, expensive political fight — making room to improve access to health care and grow the Kansas economy.
We are so close. Let’s get this done.
As we continue our work to rebuild Kansas, there’s one area where we mean it… literally. It’s time for us to develop a new, comprehensive transportation plan so that we can rebuild roads and bridges across our state.
My Secretary of Transportation, Julie Lorenz, and her team have spent months hosting community meetings to ensure that all Kansans – in communities large and small – have the opportunity to help shape the future of infrastructure in a way that meets local needs.
Infrastructure is about far more than just roads and bridges.
It’s the means by which our school buses safely transport our most precious cargo. It’s how we make Kansans’ daily commutes faster and safer so they can spend more time with their families. It means jobs. Thousands of jobs. It’s the gateway to rural broadband. And as an export state, it is how we get Kansas goods to market and keep our economy humming.
This will be the fourth time Kansas has pursued such an endeavor. Each plan has improved upon the plan before, adapting to changing needs throughout the state and building on lessons learned. Each plan has propelled Kansas into the future, making our transportation system one of the best in the nation.
There’s one lesson from the past, in particular, I hope you will keep in mind as we begin this process anew:
Even the best laid infrastructure plan will crumble if we do not maintain the resources we need as a state to see it through.
As promised, last year I officially began “closing down” the “Bank of KDOT.” I am fully committed to continuing that phase out throughout my first term so that we can fulfill the promises of the previous transportation plan and invest in the future.
But I’ve always been clear that this pledge comes with one, critical caveat: stable state revenues.
Rebuilding fiscal stability in Kansas state government has been one of my top priorities as governor. Last January, I presented a balanced budget to the Legislature without raising taxes. A budget that paid down debt. Re-invested in core services like education and healthcare. All while leaving the largest ending balance in more than a decade.
The budget didn’t quite return to me with all those features intact.
The budget that came back to my desk in May included $182 million dollars more in spending than I had recommended. It did not maintain the statutorily-required ending balance we need to cushion state investments in case of an emergency. It also spent more than we were taking in.
The good news is that Kansas’ economic outlook has stabilized, and even improved a bit. While the risk of a recession will always remain a possibility, the foreseeable future does not appear as ominous as it did last January.
That is why tomorrow, for the second year in a row, I will submit to you a balanced budget that continues our rebuilding efforts, that continues to pay down debt, and that honors my promise to cut taxes.
Kansas families are taxed more for food than anywhere else in the United States. These families shouldn’t have to pay more than their fair share, especially when it comes to the essentials. So my budget will take the first step in lowering taxes on groceries, starting with Kansans who need help the most.
I’ve always considered lowering the tax on groceries an urgent need. But ultimately we must work our way back to that longstanding notion of the “three-legged stool.” We must rebalance all of our revenue streams — income, sales, and property tax.
The Kansas tax structure has become more than a little lopsided in recent years, which is why my budget will also include property tax relief.
As funding for schools, cities and counties was cut over the last decade, local units of government were left with few options to make ends meet. Increasing property taxes was one of them.
This left local communities frustrated, and put a desperate strain on working Kansans and Kansans living on fixed incomes — especially our seniors. They need relief, and we can give it to them in 2020.
Together, the food and property tax relief I will offer will take meaningful strides in re-building our overall tax structure so that it is more fair and more fiscally responsible.
But it is only the first step of what must be a multi-phased, multi-year process.
I understand that any discussion of taxes is politically charged. But if we ever truly want to move forward, we must confront the stark inequities, outdated inefficiencies, and expensive loopholes riddled throughout our tax code.
To this end, I established a Council on Tax Reform last summer to develop such comprehensive, commonsense reforms.
I’d like to recognize former Democratic Senator Janis Lee, who is here with us in the gallery, and former Republican Senate President Steve Morris, for spearheading this bipartisan effort.
The Tax Council’s work will continue into 2020. In the meantime, the Council identified a targeted food sales tax cut through a refundable rebate and broad property tax relief as two initial steps we can and should take as a state to begin the long process of re-balancing our revenue streams.
Before I move on, I ask you to have a little faith.
As governor, I have worked diligently to honor every promise I’ve made to Kansans. I’ve also worked to include you as my partner in the governing process every step of the way. My commitment to working with you on tax reform is no different.
I began my remarks this evening with a quick stroll down memory lane —- but not because the last 10 years were filled with such pleasant memories.
I started there because I don’t want Kansas to finish there. We simply cannot go back.
So I want to be clear: to protect our recovery, and to ensure Kansas does not repeat the mistakes of the last decade, I will veto any tax bill that comes to my desk that throws our state back into fiscal crisis, or debt, or sends us back to court for underfunding our schools.
I hope you won’t stand for it either.
This has been an eventful year.
One year ago, our social safety net was in shreds.
Together, we took action. We hired dozens of new social workers across the state to better support vulnerable families. We created special response teams and amplified collaboration with the KBI to more quickly recover missing foster care youth. We brought nursing homes back from the brink of fiscal ruin without closing a single facility. We bolstered funding for mental health in an effort to c