January 17, 2020

Capitol Connection is your weekly report from KAC's Vice President Adrienne Olejnik on happenings at the Statehouse and issues affecting Kansas children and families. For more updates, follow KAC on  Facebook  and  Twitter .

For Adrienne's perspective, see her Twitter account!
First week: All hands on deck

We're back! Kansas weather has sure played a role in this first week of the legislative session.  The icy conditions closed many schools Monday, so I was able to have a few extra hands helping me and the KAC team hand out our annual KIDS COUNT calendars and packets to legislative offices.

All KAC hands were on deck covering every office in the Statehouse early this week. We are glad to be back in the thick of moving policy that helps Kansas kids and families. If you ever have any questions or issues we need to know about, please reach out!

Left: KAC President John Wilson hands out informational materials. Above:  Adrienne's kids, Grace and Reese, help on Monday.

State of the State

One of the key events of the week was Gov. Laura Kelly's State of the State address on Wednesday night.
The governor highlighted the long way Kansas has come over the past decade, from digging out of the Great Recession to healing the self-inflicted damage from the Brownback tax "experiment." As expected, she spent most of her policy discussion time on the Medicaid expansion deal she reached with Republican Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning last week (for more on the proposal, see the section below).

She emphasized the need for Kansas to remain on a sound financial footing, with adequate revenue, as we work to rebuild the state transportation plan and bolster state agencies. She also mentioned restoring the refundability of the food sales tax credit, making groceries more affordable for the Kansans who need help most.
At Kansas Action for Children, we gathered with nearly 20 of our friends and supporters to watch the speech at our office. We were glad to share the experience (along with some tasty snacks and refreshing drinks), and are excited to see where these proposals lead in the weeks and months to come.
Budget and taxes

Hot on the heels of her State of the State address, Gov. Kelly released her budget proposal, recommending $19.8 billion in expenditures for FY 2021. The governor's budget reflects several priorities, including:
  • Fiscal responsibility: The proposed budget shows the state general fund (SGF) balances exceeding percentage requirements. For FY 2021, the proposed budget would have an SGF ending balance for $627.8 million. The plan also includes decreased reliance on the Kansas Department of Transportation and continued phase-out of State Highway Fund transfers.
  • Pay off debts: The Governor's plan includes paying off several debts early in FY 2020, including KPERS layering payments, the PMIB loan, and IMPACT bonds. The total debt amount to be paid off in FY 2020 would total over $600 million.
  • KPERs reamortization: Despite last year's strong legislative disapproval, the Governor has again recommended reamortizing KPERS over 25 years, arguing the restructuring will provide more stability to the SGF budget.
  • Medicaid expansion: With the recent announcement of a bipartisan plan to expand KanCare this session, the Governor's recommendation includes $17.5 million to expand Medicaid. Expanding eligibility for the program will allow 150,000 low-income Kansans access critical health care coverage.
  • Refundable food sales tax credit: The refundable credit would replace the current non-refundable food sales tax credit, benefitting more than 540,000 tax filers.
  • Other tax changes: The Governor's budget also includes recommendations related to retail sales and compensating use taxes of digital property, marketplace facilitators' tax collection, and addressing local property tax through Local Ad Valorem Tax Reduction Fund (LAVTRF).
  • Human services, education, and public safety: The budget lists additional funding for the proposed Department of Human Services, K-12 education to keep funding constitutional, higher education, and public safety.
Medicaid expansion

The Medicaid compromise bill (SB 252), announced last week by Gov. Kelly and Sen. Denning, was referred to the   Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. Hearings on the bill will be held Thursday, Jan. 23, and Friday, Jan. 24, and likely into the following week. We are joining other advocates in support of this bill. We know that when parents receive health coverage, kids are more likely to be enrolled and utilize health insurance benefits.

Important aspects of the bill include:
  • Full expansion with eligibility up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line.
  • While we do not support the premiums that are included- there are no lockouts, and a hardship exemption is included, which mitigate the impact of premiums for some individuals and families.
  • Dates are included in the bill to prevent delays.
Stay tuned for more information about the Medicaid expansion proposal next week as the hearings on the bill proceed.
While there is always more we could highlight for the session, we'll stop there for this first week back!

See you next week!
-- Adrienne