On the ground at the Statehouse
What an exciting first week of the 2019 legislative session! I've been busy sharing KIDS COUNT data and calendars with legislators, attending committee meetings, and responding to research and policy requests from legislators. The week started with inauguration activities and has ended with analysis of Gov. Laura Kelly's first budget proposal.
KAC is watching
Gov. Kelly's budget was presented to a joint committee of House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means on Thursday morning. Key priorities in the budget follow the items Governor Kelly raised in her State of the State speech Wednesday evening -- funding education, adding staff to DCF to manage the increasing caseload of foster care children, and Medicaid expansion.
Legislators had many questions about the recommendations, especially about the cost of Medicaid expansion, plans to reamortize KPERS, and pay off certain debt early. Budget Director Larry Campbell indicated the proposed budget is a first draft and asked the legislature to roll up their sleeves and help craft recommendations together.
The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee has already heard testimony on SB 13, a proposal to allow Kansans to itemize on their state income tax return if they take the standard deduction on their federal tax return, and other tax items. Yesterday, Senate President Susan Wagle indicated she would form a Senate Select Committee on Federal Tax Code Implementation to address these federal tax conformity issues.
The House Children and Seniors Committee was made a five-day-a-week committee this year, with Rep. Susan Concannon leading the efforts at chair. KAC President and CEO Annie McKay presented testimony in an informational hearing yesterday about how Kansas kids are faring and how KAC can be of assistance to the committee as they work through issues affecting Kansas kids.
Just for fun
As a former librarian, I would be remiss if I didn't give a shout out to Kansas author Sarah Smarsh, who was the master of ceremonies at Monday morning's inauguration. Her recent book, Heartland, has been the topic of much discussion not only in our KAC office, but on a national level as well, and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2018 for nonfiction.