Category Archives: Kansas

Newsletter of Senator Richard Hilderbrand

January 24, 2020 ∙ Week Two
HARD FACTS
Value Them Both suggested language:
·      The Value Them Both Constitutional Amendment was introduced by a coalition of several pro-life organizations including the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, the Kansas Catholic Conference, Concerned Women for America of Kansas and Kansans for Life.
·      Value Them Both was crafted to restore to the people of Kansas, through their elected officials, the ability to halt what could soon be an unlimited abortion industry.
·      Value Them Both lets the people regulate abortion through their elected officials. It is not a ban.
·      Because of a 2019 Kansas Supreme Court ruling, broadly supported regulations like late-term abortion and taxpayer funded abortion, parental notification requirements and clinic safety standards could be struck down.
·      Unlimited and unregulated abortion hurt women and babies.
·      Value Them Both respects laws already adopted by Kansans such as a ban on late-term dismemberment abortions and informed consent. Every woman has a right to basic health and safety standards.
Industrial Hemp
·      The state of Kansas issued 213 grower licenses for industrial hemp in growing season 2019. Of those growers, 190 were active growers and actually attempted to grow and harvest hemp.
o  Seed availability, seedling availability, and adverse weather conditions prevented some growers from carrying out their research projects.
·      68 Kansas counties had growers authorized to participate in the research phase of the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s industrial hemp plan.
·      For growing season 2020, the KDA has received 276 grower license applications.
o  Of those applications, 40% came from growers who did not participate in the program last growing season.
Rural Prosperity
·      There are 8 state agencies and 4 federal agencies that deal with housing in Kansas.
·      According to Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers, the nationwide demand for new homes is about 1.5 million per year, yet only about 1.25 million new homes are built each year.
o  This number of new homes being built is substantially smaller in rural areas.
Next week we celebrate Kansas Day. On January 29, 1861, Kansas became the 34th state. Explore the state’s early history with the Kansas History, 1854-1865 database from the State Library, which covers the Territorial period through the Civil War. Find a wide variety of personal narratives, letters, maps, speeches, and photos. Use Browse A-Z to scroll through the topics or click on one of five broad categories for an overview of the early Kansas years. Educators: each of the five categories includes an essay and ends with corresponding primary source documents. View this resource at https://kslib.info/kshistory .
FLOOR ACTION
(SB 45) PASSED THE SENATE (Vote 36-1) January 23, 2020(I voted in favor of this bill): INCREASED PENALTIES FOR SERIOUS OFFENSES TO PUBLIC SAFETY EMPLOYEES:
Senate bill 45 would raise the criminal severity level for involuntary manslaughter to level 2 penalty when the victim is a public safety sector employee. It would also raise the criminal severity level for aggravated battery to a level 3 penalty when the victim is a public safety sector employee. The severity levels were also increased for knowingly and purposefully causing great bodily harm or disfigurement via the following: by driving under the influence, by use of a deadly weapon, or by committing a DUI offense where the bodily harm can result in disfigurement or death.
The bill defines “Public Safety Sector Employee” as any individual employed by or volunteering for any law enforcement office, sheriff’s department, municipal fire department, volunteer and non-volunteer fire protection association, emergency management, EMS, or public works department while engaged in official duties.
KANSAS SUPREME COURT DISMISSES LAWSUIT FILED BY JUDGES
This week the Kansas Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit over funding and pay raises for the state’s court system filed by six trial-court judges. Here is a link to Chief Justice Marla Luckert’s written decision. (If you can not access the link, copy and paste this address into your browser: http://www.kscourts.org/Kansas-Courts/General-Information/2020-News-Releases/012220b.pdf)
Legislators last year approved a $149 million annual budget for the court system, but the Supreme Court is pushing for an increase of $18 million, or 12%.
Attorney General Derek Schmidt issued a statement to the press saying, “The court should no more decide the size of its own budget than the Legislature should decide the constitutionality of the laws it enacts.”
The district judges named on the lawsuit included Robert Frederick of Finney County in southwest Kansas; Steven Hornbaker of Geary County in northeast Kansas; Michael Powers in Marion County in central Kansas; and Merlin Wheeler of Lyon County in eastern Kansas. Frederick, Powers and Wheeler are the chief administrative judges in their judicial districts. Two other judges involved in the lawsuit were identified only as John Doe #1 and John Doe #2.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PROTECT LIFE
The Value Them Both Amendment to the Constitution was introduced in both the House and Senate on Thursday, January 16th. Both SCR 1613 and HCR 5019 have been passed out of their respective committees as of January 22nd, Fed and State Affairs in the House and Judiciary in the Senate. Floor debate is set to begin in earnest next week, with both the Senate and House seeking to pass the measure quickly.
Senate testimony in support of the amendment underlined the importance of rolling back a supposed right to abortion and its accompanying strict scrutiny requirement in order to protect reasonable regulation of the abortion industry, especially laws protecting parental consent, clinical cleanliness and licensing standards as well as informed consent for every patient.
Opponents of the amendment essentially argued this amendment was a prelude to a full ban, seeking to incite public outcry because the Amendment does not allow Kansas to over-rule federal law.
Passage of this amendment through the Senate will reinstate the right role of the Legislature to regulate this industry like any other. The Value Them Both Amendment seeks to protect both mother and child and it takes the question of who should represent them back to the people.
RALLY FOR LIFE
This year’s annual Rally for Life came at a perfect time to promote the proposed Value Them Both Constitutional Amendment.  The rally has taken place every year since the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision was made 47 years ago on January 22nd, which granted women the right to an abortion. On Wednesday, pro-life groups made their voices heard in opposition.
It brings together pro-life Kansas lawmakers and groups from across the state to discuss what they can do to impact the current laws on abortion. Representatives Susan Humphries and Susan Concannon took to the podium along with Senate President Susan Wagle who said, “We’re here to protect life at the beginning of life, at the end of life, when life is vulnerable, when a person is disabled. We go out of our way to care for others because they are created in the image of God.”
Jeanne Gawden, from Kansans for Life, read breaking news from President Trump who declared January 22nd ‘National Sanctity of Human Life Day.’
MEDICAID EXPANSION
The Public Health and Welfare Committee began hearing testimony on SB 252. Those in favor of expanding Medicaid argued the bill should pass, as is, without work requirements or conscientious objections provisions. Under the Denning-Kelly plan, Kansans in the coverage gap ages 19-64 who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level would be eligible for Medicaid, which is now only available to the elderly, children, and those who are disabled and don’t have the option to work.
In his testimony in favor of SB 252, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning explained the Pathway to Work provision that was also a provision in the draft rs1873 bill presented in the Senate Select Committee on Healthcare Access. The federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) law prohibits any work requirement provisions that can impact enrollment up to 138% of the federal poverty level. That means it is illegal to modify enrollment to exclude any Kansan between the ages of 19-64 with income up to 138% of FPL when expanding Medicaid. It is known that many states are proposing a work requirement, however, right now there is not a single state that has a functioning work requirement for Medicaid eligibility. Either the work requirement has been denied by CMS, struck down by the courts, and/or has been deemed too expensive by states to implement. This is why the Senate Select Committee proposed and believed a pathway to employment was the best approach at this time over a hard count work requirement.
Senator Gene Suellentrop chairs the committee which also heard from the Kansas budget director, Larry Campbell, who testified that the new estimated costs of expansion would be $40.32 million in the first full year of implementation and $37.1 million in the second year. That includes a $35 million cost each year for a newly proposed “reinsurance” program which would subsidize rates in the private health insurance marketplace and add an estimated 120 new employees to The Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Senator Molly Baumgardner questioned the Kansas Hospital Association’s CEO, Tom Bell, about the finances of struggling hospitals which, expansion supporters say, need the influx of state and federal dollars to survive. Baumgardner asked Bell how expansion can help hospitals which only treat one or two patients per day. While Bell admitted he never promised Medicaid expansion alone would save rural hospitals, Senator Baumgardner reminded the group that claim has been a large part of the pro-expansion conversation and was a well-publicized element of Laura Kelly’s gubernatorial campaign.
Testimony continues next week. Chairman Suellentrop said he didn’t know when the committee will take action on the bill but that it will not happen next week.
2019 REPORT ON RURAL PROSPERITY
Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers gave a report to the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on the findings of his Rural Prosperity Listening Tour this week. The tour took the Lt. Governor to 44 towns in 23 counties, where he spoke with Kansans at 16 manufacturers, 12 farms and agricultural facilities, 9 hospitals or healthcare facilities and more than 130 other meetings and events.
Lt. Governor Rogers reported that the newly created Office of Rural Prosperity will begin focusing on three primary areas of improvement based on the findings during the Listening Tour: Housing, Childcare, and Workforce Recruitment, Retention and Education. Other priorities identified by Kansans include removing roadblocks to prosperity such as lack of quality roads and bridges, state rules and regulations, lack of quality, affordable broadband and taxes in general (particularly property taxes).
INDUSTRIAL HEMP REPORT
Jeff Vogel, Kansas Department of Agriculture, briefed the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources on the progress being made by farmers and growers in the state who have decided to produce industrial hemp. These growers are allowed to do so through the passage of Senate Substitute for HB2167 during the 2019 legislative session.
Vogel reports that the first year of the industrial hemp program’s research phase was a positive one overall, with 190 active growers in the state, 20 active distributors, 35 active processors, and 9 universities participating in the program. Vogel expects the KDA to have the state’s commercial program rules and regulations prepared for submission to the U.S. Department of Agriculture as early as next week.
Once the rules and regulations are approved by the USDA, the state will begin accepting licensure applications for a commercial industrial hemp program, which means growers could begin planting industrial hemp as early as the 2020 growing season. However, Vogel cautioned that the USDA approval process can often be slow and cumbersome, so growers should not get their hopes up in terms of being able to participate in a commercial program this growing season.
2020 PASSENGER RAIL MEETING
Senator McGinn hosted a packed meeting Wednesday regarding Kansas’s need to invest in passenger rail. The meeting included Kansas legislators, out-of-state officials with interest in rail, an Amtrak official and a Kansas Department of Transportation official.
This is the third meeting Senator McGinn has hosted, and the meetings seem to grow every year. Senator McGinn explained, “People nowadays want to be working on their computers. They want to be doing their business while they’re traveling, so this gives them an opportunity to do that.”
One proposal suggested bringing a passenger rail station to Wichita. Currently, the closest passenger rail station is in Newton. Officials hope to connect two of the Midwest’s largest cities, Wichita and Oklahoma City, by building a new station in Wichita.
When KDOT releases its next ten-year transportation plan, supporters are hoping passenger rail gets a greater focus than in years past.
AT RISK FUNDING REPORT
This week the Senate Education committee heard from Legislative Post Audit regarding the use of at-risk student funding. This hearing drew attention to the fact that the vast majority of “at-risk” funding was used to pay teacher salaries, not on targeted programs that address needs of at-risk populations above and beyond regular classroom learning. It also became apparent that school districts had a somewhat uncritical approach to evaluating the legal requirement that this special funding be funneled into “evidence-based” approaches.
As the Legislature has now met court-mandated levels of funding, the assurances set in place for the effective use of these at-risk funds seems to have failed in their intended purpose. The Education committee plans to continue digging deeper into these new findings.
SUMMARY:
Summary:
Medicaid Expansion and the Value Them Both Amendment should continue to lead the news this week.
Monday, January 27
Ø Hearing: SB258 — Removing the requirement that certain entities submit certain reports to the division of post audit (10:30, Ways and Means, 548-S)
Ø Hearing: SB244 — Administrative rules and regulations shall sunset five years after adoption unless extension is approved by the legislature (10:30, Ways and Means, 548-S)
Ø Briefing: Kansas Universities and Colleges by the Numbers (1:30, Education, 144-S)
Tuesday, January 28
Ø Hearing continuation: SB252 — Expanding medical assistance eligibility and implementing a health insurance plan reinsurance program (9:30, Public Health and Welfare, 118-N)
Ø Hearing: SB256 — Repealing certain statutes regarding elections that pertain to the presidential preference primary; certain election-related contributions by corporations (9:30, Ethics, Elections and Local Government, 142-S)
Ø Hearing: SB257 — Amending and repealing reapportionment census data laws to conform with 2019 amendments to the Kansas constitution, and to remove certain obsolete provisions (9:30, Ethics, Elections and Local Government, 142-S)
Ø Hearing: SB250 — Amending the definition of “race” in the Kansas act against discrimination to include traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles (10:30, Federal and State Affairs, 144-S)
Ø Hearing: SB269 — Increasing the mandatory retirement age for judges to 80 years of age (10:30, Judiciary, 346-S)
Ø Hearing: SB126 — Exemption from income tax for certain public utilities (1:30, Utilities, 548-S)
Wednesday, January 29 (Happy Kansas Day!)
Ø Hearing continuation: SB252 — Expanding medical assistance eligibility and implementing a health insurance plan reinsurance program (9:30, Public Health and Welfare, 118-N)
Ø Hearing: SB149 — Facilitating voter registration by providing certificates of birth for applicants to evidence citizenship upon their consent (9:30, Ethics, Elections and Local Government, 142-S)
Ø Hearing: SB283 — Authorizing sports wagering under the Kansas expanded lottery act (10:30, Federal and State Affairs, 144-S)
Thursday, January 30
Ø Hearing continuation: SB252 — Expanding medical assistance eligibility and implementing a health insurance plan reinsurance program (9:30, Public Health and Welfare, 118-N)
Ø Hearing: SB254 — Concerning requirements of publication of certain documents by the secretary of state; relating to session laws, the Kansas register, proposed amendments to the constitution of the state of Kansas, and Kansas administrative rules and regulations and guidance documents (10:30, Federal and State Affairs, 144-S)
Ø Hearing: SB253 — Amending requirements for service of process on nonresident drivers and clarifying service of process on certain business entities (10:30, Judiciary, 346-S)
Ø Hearing: SB293 — Transferring duties concerning registration for charitable organizations and the address confidentiality program (safe at home) from the secretary of state to the attorney general and removing the authority of the secretary of state to prosecute election crimes (10:30, Judiciary, 346-S)
Ø Hearing: SB255 — Appropriations to the University of Kansas Medical Center; creating the Cancer Research and Public Information Trust Fund (10:30, Ways and Means, 548-S)
Ø Hearing: SCR1601 — Constitutional amendment eliminating transfers from the state highway fund (10:30, Ways and Means, 548-S)
Friday, January 31 (Pro Forma)
Ø GOP State Convention begins (2 pm, Embassy Suites by Hilton Kansas City Olathe)
Thank You for Engaging
Thank you for all your calls, emails, and letters regarding your thoughts and concerns about happenings in Kansas. Constituent correspondence helps inform my decision-making process and is taken into great consideration when I cast my vote in the Kansas Senate. I hope you’ll continue to engage with me on the issues that matter most to you, your family, and our community. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, I encourage you to follow along with the #ksleg hashtag for real-time updates on legislative happenings in Topeka.
Please know that I am fully committed to addressing the current issues in our state, and I am proud to be your voice in the Kansas Senate.

Governor’s Council on Tax Reform releases interim report

 

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/

Legislative Update By State Senator Caryn Tyson

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.

Caryn

Mobile KansasWorks Center

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.

 

Kansas Health Issues Presented

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.

 

  • Behaviors – Kansas ranks #38 in the survey for obesity rates and #30 for smoking.
  • Environment – Kansas ranks #21 in the U.S. for the number of children living in poverty. Kansas’ chlamydia numbers are twice the healthiest state, at 465 per 100,000.
  • Policy – Kansas ranks #49 in U.S. for females receiving the HPV vaccine and #34 for males. Kansas ranks #32 for children 19-35 months receiving completed vaccines at 69 percent. Kansas ranks 40th for the amount of dollars in public health funding at $60/person. This is 4.5 times less than the top state at $281/per person.
  • Medical Care – There is low access to dentists, particularly in rural Kansas. Kansas ranks #38 with 50 dentists per 100,000. Kansas also ranks #35 for mental health providers.
  • Outcomes – Kansas ranks in the bottom half on cancer, cardiovascular and diabetes deaths; frequent mental distress; infant mortality; and premature deaths in years lost before age 75.

 

“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 Evaluates Options

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:

 

  1. Evergy should immediately initiate a process to explore the sale of the Company or some other business combination;

 

  1. Evergy should significantly increase its capex over the Company’s current plan, cut investments in operations and maintenance (O&M) to help offset this increase, and halt its existing share repurchase program.

 

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 are executing on our operating plan and are achieving substantial cost savings. We are on track to exceed the $550 million of cumulative net cost savings targeted through 2023 in connection with the merger.  These savings include $110 million of savings in 2019 alone – $80 million above our 2018 target.  Notably, these savings are being achieved while protecting jobs; there have been no involuntary layoffs at the Company.
  • Merger savings, share repurchases, dividends and infrastructure investments are contributing to sustainable earnings growth and competitive shareholder returns.  At this time, given the regulatory considerations in Missouri and Kansas, we believe the greatest return opportunities for Evergy’s capital beyond our current investment plan are share repurchases and growing the Company’s dividend. Together with the Company’s merger savings and incremental infrastructure investments utilizing plant in-service accounting in Missouri, we expect to deliver compounded annual earnings growth of 5% to 7% through 2023.
  • Evergy’s third quarter results demonstrate the strength of the Company and the value opportunity we offer to Evergy shareholders. We delivered another solid quarter, despite regulatory headwinds. Our confidence in the business and our financial strength is reflected in the confirmation of our 2019 adjusted EPS guidance of $2.80 to $3.00 and the 6.3% increase to our dividend, also consistent with our long-term guidance.

 

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.

New export assistance grant available to companies across Kansas

 

 

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.”

 

For more information about the Kansas Market Access Program and to apply online, visit kansascommerce.gov/k-map-application or kansasglobal.org.

Senator Richard Hilderbrand Legislative Report Jan. 17

January 17, 2020 ∙ Week One
HARD FACTS
o   Kansas talking points for the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA):Easily passed: vote of 89-10. Mexico and Canada ar Kansas talking points for the passage of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA):e the #1 and #2 destinations for Kansas’ exported goods, respectively. In 2018, Kansas exported more than $2.1 billion in goods to Mexico and $1.9 billion to Canada. The new agreement makes much-needed improvements to NAFTA and brings trade between the three countries into the 21st century.
o·      Spirit AeroSystems announces layoffs of 2,800 employees in the Wichita area, due to issues with the Boeing 737 Max. This follows the announcement that Textron has laid off 875 employees in the Wichita area. Spirit AeroSystems is the largest employer in Wichita. Employees will begin leaving the company on January 22 but will be paid for a 60-day notice period.
o  Re-amortization of KPERS would add another $4.4 billion in new debt if the plan is approved.Tacks on an additional 10 years before KPERS is fully funded. If the state continues with the current payment plan, KPERS is expected to be fully funded within the next 15 years.
Many of us have “learn a new language” as a New Year’s Resolution. With Mango Languages, you can learn right from your own computer or smartphone. This online language learning service https://kslib.info/Mango provided by the State Library of Kansas is easy to use. Choose from 71 languages such as Spanish, French, Mandarin- even Swahili. Mango uses real life situations and conversations to more effectively teach a new language. Mango also includes 19 English as a second language options. Use as a Guest or register to track your progress (and for smartphone use).
If the page above asks for a Kansas Library eCard number, you may get one at any library in Kansas. Most people will be automatically recognized as being in Kansas and will not need this step. Questions: kslc@ks.gov or 785-296-3296. To see all the State Library’s online resources, visit https://kslib.info/databases.
CONSIDERATION OF APPOINTMENTS
Department of Administration Secretary, DeAngela Burns-Wallace
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Department of Corrections Secretary, Jeffrey Zmuda
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 37-2. (I voted Nay, for the following reason: https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article231037338.html )
Kansas Board of Regents, Cheryl Harrison-Lee, Shellaine Kiblinger, and Jonathan Rolph
The Senate confirmed each nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas Development Finance Authority, Alan Deines
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas Highway Patrol Superintendent, Herman Jones
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas Lottery Executive Director, Stephen Durrell
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas Lottery Commission, Catherine Moyer (reappointment), Kenneth ‘Ed’ Trimmer, and Kala Spigarelli
The Senate confirmed each nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas Public Employees’ Retirement System Board of Trustees, Emily Hill and Owen ‘Brad’ Stratton
The Senate confirmed each nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission, Kelly Kultala
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Kansas State Gaming Agency Executive Director, Kala Loomis
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Chair of the Kansas Water Authority, Constance Owen
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Director of the Kansas Water Office, Earl Lewis
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
Public Employee Relations Board, Joni Franklin, Jonathan Gilbert, Michael Ryan, Keely Schneider, and Donald ‘Rick’ Wiley
The Senate confirmed each nomination on a vote of 39-0.
State Banking Board, Ruth Stevenson and Patrick Walden
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
State Bank Commissioner, David Herndon
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, Erica Andrade, Michael Birzer, Patricia Hudgins, Laurel Michel, and Richard Ney
The Senate confirmed each nomination on a vote of 39-0.
State Civil Service Board, Sheryl Gilchrist
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
State Fire Marshal, Doug Jorgensen (reappointment)
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
University of Kansas Hospital Authority Board, Romano Delcore (reappointment)
The Senate confirmed the nomination on a vote of 39-0.
RETIREMENT OF SENATOR MARY PILCHER-COOK
State Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook officially resigned Thursday, January 16. Senate President Susan Wagle thanked Senator Pilcher-Cook for her dedicated and passionate service to Kansans.
In a statement announcing her decision, Pilcher-Cook said her record had been consistent with the values she ran on in campaigns for both the House and Senate:
“It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Kansas for 15 years; two terms in the House, and almost three terms in the Senate. But now it is time for me to step down and give that privilege to someone else. My voting record shows I have consistently been honest with the voters and upheld all my campaign promises, repeatedly voting for limited government, reduced spending and traditional family values. Conservatives understand that power comes from the people, and that new leadership is sometimes required to carry on the mantle of these time-honored principles. I expect nothing less from the next senator to represent the 10th Senate district.”
WELCOME MIKE THOMPSON
Former Kansas City meteorologist Mike Thompson will succeed her in District 10 and will be sworn in Tuesday, January 21 at 2:30.  Senator-Elect Thompson plans to run for a full term during the next election.
GOVERNOR’S BUDGET PROPOSAL
Governor Kelly’s proposed budget will cost around $7.8 billion for the upcoming fiscal year. The proposed plan includes various new social spending initiatives, Medicaid Expansion, delaying payments to our state retirement fund and a pay raise for state employees.
The governor will, once again, ask lawmakers to invest a lot less in KPERS, extending payments 10 years and adding an estimated $4.4 billion dollars to the total costs.  It’s a plan Republicans successfully defeated last year. Right now, if we continue to fully fund our KPERS obligation, the delayed payment debt is estimated to be eliminated in 15 years.
The Governor also wants to provide $53 million dollars in tax credits to low-income families for sales tax relief while a Republican plan would eliminate the cumbersome tax return credit element and simply lower the amount of tax paid at the store when Kansans buy groceries.
In an attempt to help Kansans with property tax costs, the Governor suggests funding a program called the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund, which hasn’t been used since 2003.  It is a cumbersome fund designed to send money back to local government to decide whether or not to pass the money on to taxpayers. LAVTRF relief estimates calculated by independent researchers show, after going through all the red tape, taxpayers who own a $150,000 home would only save an average of about $12-25 per year depending on the county.
Other spending plans include $5 million in new aid for low-income students, a $14.8 million block grant for universities, and $8.5 million for tech students, a $7.2 million infusion into the state prison system for new beds and substance abuse programs, a $14.5 million allotment for two new highway patrol helicopters with infrared equipment and a 2.5% pay raise for state employees other than the judicial and legislative branches.
To help try to offset at least some of her spending plans, the Governor would like to begin taxing streaming services like Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and Netflix which, if approved, would take effect in July.  Her budget plan, according to the state’s bipartisan Legislative Research Department, overspends and cuts into our reserves by an estimated $571.8 million.
I strongly support allowing Kansans to take advantage of the Trump Tax Policy which allows taxpayers to itemize their deductions to get breaks on property taxes, mortgage interest rates, and healthcare costs.
SUMMARY:
Next week, together, both houses will conduct hearings on the proposed constitutional amendment to continue to allow the legislature to regulate the abortion industry as it does all health care industries.  The amendment is a top priority for Republicans who know unregulated health care is not in the best interest of Kansans who value protecting women and babies from harm.  Hearings will also begin on the Medicaid Expansion proposal where committee members are expected to hear arguments for adding a work requirement along with other suggested amendments.  Federal and State Affairs committee members will also hear reasons to establish “polka” as the official state dance.
DETAILS:
 MONDAY, January 20: NO SESSION; MLK Day
TUESDAY, January 21: 2:30 p.m. Session
·      Hearing on: SCR1613 — Amending the bill of rights of the constitution of the state of Kansas to reserve to the people the right to regulate abortion through their elected state representatives and senators. Meeting concurrently with House Federal and State Affairs Committee.(Joint Senate Judiciary and House Federal & State Affairs Committees, 9:00am, 346-S)
WEDNESDAY, January 22: 2:30 p.m. Session; Possible General Orders
·      Briefing on: 2019 Report on Rural Prosperity-Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers (Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, 8:30am, 159-S)
·      Informational briefing: Kansas Department of Transportation, Secretary Julia Lorenz and Joel Skelley, Director of Policy (Senate Transportation Committee, 8:30am, 546-S)
THURSDAY, January 23: 2:30 p.m. Session; Possible Final Action
·      Briefing on: Report on Senate Substitute for HB2167, Industrial Hemp (Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, 8:30am, 159-S)
·      Informational briefing: Kansas Highway Patrol, Colonel Herman Jones (Senate Transportation Committee, 8:30am, 546-S)
·      Kansas Department of Labor Overview (Senate Commerce Committee, 8:30am, 548-S)
·      Hearing on: (proponents) SB252 — Expanding medical assistance eligibility and implementing a health insurance plan reinsurance program. Please note: Opponents to be heard on SB252 on January 27 & 28. (Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, 9:30am, 118-N)
·       Hearing on: SB158 — Designating the state dance as the polka. (Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, 10:30am, 144-S)
·      Department of Commerce (Senate Ways and Means Committee, 10:30am, 548-S)
·       Update on: Rural Opportunity Zones Kansas Department of Commerce (Senate Ways and Means Committee, 10:30am, 548-S)
·       Presentations by Legislative Post Audit: At-Risk School Funding (Senate Education Committee, 1:30pm, 144-S)
FRIDAY, January 24: 8:00 a.m. Session
·      Hearing continuation on (proponents) SB252 — Expanding medical assistance eligibility and implementing a health insurance plan reinsurance program. Please note: Opponents to be heard on SB252 on January 27 & 28. (Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, 9:30am, 118-N)
Thank You for Engaging
Thank you for all your calls, emails, and letters regarding your thoughts and concerns about happenings in Kansas. Constituent correspondence helps inform my decision-making process and is taken into great consideration when I cast my vote in the Kansas Senate. I hope you’ll continue to engage with me on the issues that matter most to you, your family, and our community. If you are on Twitter or Facebook, I encourage you to follow along with the #ksleg hashtag for real-time updates on legislative happenings in Topeka.
Please know that I am fully committed to addressing the current issues in our state, and I am proud to be your voice in the Kansas Senate.

Legislative Update By State Senator Caryn Tyson

Caryn Tyson

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.

Caryn

Governor applauds Congressional passage of USMCA

 

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.

The Kelly Budget: Continuing Progress

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:

 

    • Achieves Structural Balance: The Governor’s Budget Recommendation maintains structural balance, ensuring that state expenditures do not exceed revenues. It also meaningfully reduces the state’s irresponsible reliance on one-time funds.

 

    • Rebuilds State Savings: The Kelly Budget includes a statutorily required ending balance totaling $627.8 million. The 8.0 percent ending balance exceeds the amount required by law, a reflection of Gov. Kelly’s commitment to fiscal discipline.

 

    • Reduces State Debt: The Kelly budget retires $602.5 million of debt in FY 2020. This includes fully repaying the $264.3 million balance of the loan issued in calendar year 2017 from the Pooled Money Investment Board. It also pays off the $69.8 million balance of IMPACT bonds at the Department of Commerce. Paying $268.4 million will eliminate KPERS layering payments that resulted from skipping normal contributions to the system in FY 2017 and FY 2019. Altogether, paying these debts early saves an estimated $212.6 million in interest, as well as freeing up the related debt payments in future years.

 

Additionally, the Kelly budget accomplishes critical policy goals:

 

    • Keeps Funding Promise to Kansas Schools: In June 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Kansas had enacted a plan that fulfills the state’s constitutional obligation to adequately and fairly fund public schools. The Court endorsed the 2019 proposal offered by Governor Kelly and approved by the Legislature, which increases investment in education by roughly $90 million a year, accounting for inflationary increases at the rate of 1.44 percent through FY 2023. The Governor fully funded this plan in the FY 2021 budget, putting Kansas on track to increase school funding by $431.1 million through FY 2023.

 

    • Medicaid Expansion: The Governor’s recommendation includes $17.5 million to expand KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Expanding eligibility for the program will allow 150,000 low-income Kansans to access critical health-care coverage. This will not only improve the health and vitality of Kansas communities, information presented at the Governor’s Council on Medicaid Expansion showed that expanding Medicaid could also create new jobs across the state. 

 

    • Closing the “Bank of KDOT”: Since taking office, Kelly has restored investment in Kansas roads and bridges by $213 million. This budget reduces State Highway Fund transfers by an additional $73.1 million in FY 2021. Assuming state revenues remain stable, this will keep Kansas on track to fully close the “Bank of KDOT” by the end of the Governor’s first term. This will enable Kansas to fulfill the promises of T-WORKS and also enact a new transportation plan in FY 2021 without a tax increase.

 

    • Targeted Food Sales Tax Relief: The Governor’s tax policy recommendations provide food sales tax and property tax relief, and level the playing field by modernizing antiquated sales tax laws. Replacing the current non-refundable food sales tax credit with a new refundable food sales tax credit will provide $53.2 million in food sales tax relief beginning in tax year 2020.  Repealing the current non-refundable food sales tax credit after December 31, 2019, will save approximately $10 million in SGF receipts in FY 2021. Under the Governor’s proposal, the Department of Revenue estimates that more than 540,000 tax filers will claim $63.2 million in refundable food sales tax credits beginning in FY 2021.

 

    • Property Tax Relief: The Governor has also prioritized property tax relief. For the first time since 2003, resuming the State General Fund transfers to the Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund is included in the Governor’s budget recommendation. This will provide $54.0 million in local property tax relief beginning in FY 2021.

 

    • Public Safety: To address the growing overpopulation issue in our prisons, the Governor recommends expanding bed capacity and treatment capacity by renovating unoccupied buildings near the Winfield Correctional Facility and the Lansing Correctional Facility. These renovated facilities will add dedicated substance use treatment beds for offenders who need it, as well as adding capacity for geriatric care for aging and seriously ill inmates.

 

“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.

 

KS Governor’s State of the State Address

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

Fort Scott News