TOPEKA — Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly inspired the Republican-dominated Legislature to embrace Tuesday a bipartisan method to vexing political problems with taxation, well being care and training whereas delivering to Kansans a sustainable state authorities funds.
Kelly, who postponed the annual State of the State speech in early January when it was falsely assumed she contracted COVID-19, caught with acquainted themes and legislative priorities. She urged Home and Senate members to think about a $500 million tax program that swiftly eradicated the state gross sales tax on groceries, created a state gross sales tax vacation on faculty provides and shielded Social Safety revenue from the state revenue tax.
The governor pleaded with lawmakers to take up significant water coverage reform and to keep away from injecting politics extra deeply into the Okay-12 public faculties serving practically 500,000 college students. She amplified suggestions to develop eligibility for Medicaid, legalize medical marijuana, speed up workforce coaching and reply requires motion on the agricultural housing disaster.
Kelly and the Legislature collaborated in her first time period to position into legislation contents of 286 payments — all of which necessitated some measure of bipartisanship. She outlined a comparable imaginative and prescient for her second time period totally conscious Republicans maintain supermajorities within the Senate and Home. GOP management have given no signal they intend to fumble their numerical benefit as they pursue a conservative agenda.
“We haven’t at all times seen eye-to-eye, however the reality is just once we’ve banded collectively have we made actual progress,” Kelly mentioned. “That’s why I’m asking you tonight to, once more, meet me within the center. On so many points dealing with our state — from tax aid to water to well being care — one of the best options aren’t Republican or Democrat. They’ll come from compromise and collaboration. Over the subsequent 4 years, we should see one another as companions, not as foes.”
‘Make myself clear’
Kelly mentioned she would fiercely oppose aggressive tax reductions that jeopardized stability of the state funds. She indicated zealous state revenue tax cuts superior a decade in the past by GOP Gov. Sam Brownback can be unacceptable. The Brownback tax program, after years of bruising funds fights, was principally deserted in 2017 when the Legislature voted to override his veto of a repeal invoice.
“Let me make myself clear: I’ll stand towards any irresponsible tax proposals that erode that basis,” Kelly mentioned. “We’ve been there earlier than. We all know the place it leads. And we will’t return. To not debt. Crumbling roads. An overwhelmed foster care system. And, maybe most devastating of all, underfunded faculties. We can not return to the times the place monetary irresponsibility right here in Topeka robbed our Kansas college students of alternative.”
She mentioned the target needs to be to undertake fiscally sound tax adjustments the state may afford in the long run and served pursuits of working households and seniors.
The governor’s funds offered for repeal by this summer season of the 4% state gross sales tax on groceries. In 2022, the Legislature and Kelly agreed on a plan to progressively take away the 6.5% state gross sales tax on meals. The primary part of that occurred Jan. 1, when 2.5 share factors have been lopped off. The legislation wouldn’t zero it out till January 2025.
“There isn’t any cause that Kansans ought to ever look down at their grocery receipts and see this tax,” the Democratic governor mentioned. “People can’t afford it. People don’t deserve it. And there’s no want to attend for 2025.”
She additionally proposed dropping the state gross sales tax on diapers and female hygiene merchandise and recommended a four-day back-to-school gross sales tax break each August for these buying faculty provides.
As well as, she really helpful the Legislature present aid for retirees by rising to $100,000 the revenue threshold for making use of the state revenue tax to Social Safety advantages. Underneath present legislation, Kansas retirees incomes $75,000 per yr or much less don’t pay state revenue tax on Social Safety. In the event that they make $1 extra, the whole thing of their Social Safety revenue have to be subjected to the state revenue tax.
“These are all concepts that Republicans and Democrats have proposed and supported up to now,” Kelly mentioned.
Kelly launched to legislators a visitor within the Home chamber — Danny Robeson, a fifth-grader within the Shawnee Mission faculty district. He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and impaired imaginative and prescient and required further assist to study alongside friends at school by way of particular training providers. He was sitting within the balcony together with his mom, Laura, a former instructor who volunteers at his faculty.
The governor really helpful the present Legislature present full funding of particular education schemes in Okay-12 faculties statewide. The funding hole of particular training impacts each scholar in a faculty as a result of districts find yourself diverting assets to supply providers for college kids resembling Danny, she mentioned.
“Laura has seen firsthand what the funding hole means,” Kelly mentioned. “Laura typically has to maintain Danny house from faculty as a result of there aren’t sufficient workers to make sure that he can study safely.”
The governor mentioned she would oppose any effort by legislators and special-interest teams to show dad and mom towards classroom lecturers, communities towards public faculties or younger individuals towards the instructing career. The legislative agenda introduced by Senate President Ty Masterson and Home Speaker Dan Hawkins included a parental invoice of rights, together with avenues for difficult library and classroom supplies, and a requirement transgender college students take part in sports activities based mostly on gender at delivery.
“I’ll resist politicians who wish to rating political factors on the expense of our college students and our households,” Kelly mentioned. “Our college students shouldn’t be used as political pawns. Not ever. All of us agree our children do higher when dad and mom and lecturers are concerned of their training. So, slightly than distracting ourselves with wedge points, let’s concentrate on giving them each the assets and assist they want.”
Kelly renewed her pitch for enlargement of eligibility for Medicaid to greater than 100,000 lower-income Kansans. The Legislature for years has blocked adjustments to the state’s Medicaid choices and within the course of solid apart $6 billion in federal funding that will have come to the state. The governor mentioned enlargement would have created 23,000 jobs by now.
“I do know I sound like a damaged document, but it surely’s solely as a result of we’ve got a damaged well being care system,” she mentioned. “Too many rural hospitals have shut their doorways. When that occurs, the communities have been devastated. These Kansans need to drive hours to obtain their primary care.”
Kelly implored legislators to take a position state assets in psychological well being providers and to sort out the rise in opioid overdose deaths in Kansas. She mentioned the response ought to incorporate funding of naloxone for faculties to cope with scholar overdoses and motion to decriminalize fentanyl check strips so individuals had extra details about contents of medication they consumed.
Kelly hailed work by the Kansas Division of Commerce to recruit new enterprise to Kansas, together with Panasonic in De Soto, Hilmar Cheese in Dodge Metropolis, Amber Wave in Phillipsburg and Bartlett Grain in Cherryvale. Because the begin of her administration in 2019, she mentioned Kansas had documented greater than $15 billion in new capital funding and creation or retention of 54,000 jobs.
Nonetheless, she warned financial progress would carry into the highlight the state’s scarcity of expert labor. She mentioned the state ought to improve funding to a registered apprenticeship program within the Division of Commerce that was presently working with 3,500 Kansans
Kelly mentioned the proof was clear from Goodland to Liberal and past in western Kansas the diminishing provide of water may change into a catastrophe. Parts of that area of the state have an estimated 10 years of water for operation of the farm financial system.
“Ready for some miracle to occur will not be an possibility,” the governor mentioned.
She mentioned the State Water Plan was totally funded final yr for the primary time since 2009. The state paid off $30 million in debt tied to reservoirs so cash might be diverted to investments that labored for producers and irrigators apprehensive about water high quality and amount, she mentioned.
The governor really helpful lawmakers approve a invoice to legalize marijuana consumption for medical functions. Prior to now, the Home handed a invoice the Senate ignored. Thirty-nine different states have allowed individuals to eat marijuana for continual ache, seizure problems and post-traumatic stress syndrome. A majority of physicians consider medical marijuana needs to be a part of a complete palliative care plan, Kelly mentioned.
“The truth is,” she mentioned, “just some weeks in the past, proper earlier than Christmas, police raided the hospital room of a terminally ailing man in Hays. Greg Bretz was utilizing marijuana to ease his ache. He was then ordered to look in court docket, regardless of not with the ability to get away from bed. Everyone knows that was ridiculous.”
She mentioned Bretz died two weeks in the past — the primary week of the 2023 legislative session — and his passing illustrated the folly of a state legislation forbidding use of marijuana for well being causes.