Friday, January 17, 2020

Welcome to the KDP Weekly Rundown – the Kansas Democratic Party’s update of the biggest things going on in the state party and the state government. What are we focused on this week? Kelly’s second State of the State, conservatives’ sprint toward abortion rights elimination, and the administration’s 2020 budget proposal!

KELLY DELIVERS SECOND STATE OF THE STATE

  • What’s happening?

Gov. Laura Kelly on Wednesday delivered her second State of the State Address to the Kansas Legislature. Gov. Kelly praised bipartisan accomplishments from 2019 on education funding, fiscal recovery, investments in public safety, and efforts to stabilize the foster care system. Looking to 2020, Gov. Kelly outlined Medicaid expansion, criminal justice reform, food and property tax relief, and transportation planning as key priorities.

Gov. Kelly: “My hope is that 10 years from now, when this body convenes the first session of that new decade, it will look back and remember this as the ‘Soaring 20s’ – a decade when we lived up to our motto, ‘Ad Astra Per Aspera.'”

The speech carried warnings of threats to the state’s aviation sector, namely the nearly 3,000 layoffs planned at Spirit AeroSystems, and turbulence with international trade. Gov. Kelly touted Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers’ Office of Rural Prosperity Listening Tour, which totaled more than 17,000 miles across the state.

CONSERVATIVES UNVEIL AMENDMENT TO ELIMINATE ABORTION RIGHT IN STATE CONSTITUTION

  • What’s happening?

Flanked by anti-abortion rights activists, conservative Republican lawmakers on Thursday unveiled their plan to eliminate the right to an abortion in the Kansas Constitution, which was ruled by the state supreme court in 2019. If passed with two-third majorities in both chambers of the Kansas Legislature, supporters said the required statewide vote would happen during the primary election on August 4. Gov. Kelly, a strong supporter of abortion rights, cannot veto constitutional amendments passed by the legislature.

Speakers surrounded by signs reading, “Let Kansans Vote!” emphasized the importance of Kansas voters determining whether the state constitution affords the right to an abortion. Questioned by reporters about the contradiction in scheduling the vote for the election with traditionally lower turnout than in November, proponents claimed that a later timing would muddle the issue’s importance.

Opponents say voters would reject the constitutional amendment if it was placed on the November ballot. A Fox News exit poll of the 2018 election found 54% of Kansas voters supportive of abortion being legal in all or most cases and 46% opposed in all or most cases.

Republican House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins, however, was not hesitant to clarify the political nature of the scheduling. “Whether it’s the general or the primary, it’s whatever has the best chance of passing,” Hawkins said. “We want to get it passed.”

GOP Senate President Susan Wagle, who is seeking her party’s nomination in the 2020 U.S. Senate race, declared that not only is the amendment the legislature’s first priority, it would pass both chambers.

Asked if conservatives are attempting to use the legislative vote as a cudgel against moderate Republicans in the August primary election, the press conference was abruptly disbanded.

Find your lawmakers’ phone numbers at KSLegLookup.org and demand they oppose H.C.R. 5019!

BUDGET DIRECTOR OUTLINES KELLY’S 2020 BUDGET PROPOSAL

  • What’s happening?

In a joint meeting of the Senate and House budget committees Thursday, the state’s top budget official presented the Kelly administration’s proposed 2020 state budget. State Budget Director Larry Campbell gave lawmakers an overview of Gov. Kelly’s proposals for refinancing the state’s public pension system, boosting higher education and continuing K-12 funding levels, introducing a new refundable food sales tax credit, reorganizing social services into a new department, and expanding Medicaid.

Dir. Campbell repeatedly emphasized an uncertain outlook, with unstable foreign, trade, and health care policies shrouding future projections. For that reason, the Kelly administration’s balanced budget proposal provides an additional cushion to buttress against any future financial difficulties.

For state colleges and universities, the budget includes boosts of $8.5 million for career and technical education, $14.8 million in block grant funding, and $5 million in tuition aid for low-income students. The plan also proposes a 2.5 percent pay increase for both classified and nonclassified state employees.

Detailing the executive branch’s hope to reamortize the public pensions system, known as KPERS, Dir. Campbell said the cost of not revamping the yearly payment schedule is greater than higher, short-term costs over a longer timetable. Gov. Kelly on January 6 released her administration’s proposal to spread out annual payments to Kansas’ public pension system over an additional 10 years, seeking to avoid the unsustainable scheduled payments heightened by multiple bypasses during the Brownback administration.

Gov. Kelly seeks replacing the current non-refundable food sales tax credit with a new refundable food sales tax credit, Dir. Campbell said, which is estimated to apply to more than 540,000 tax filings. Republicans snubbed the idea as it was presented, along with a proposal to invest $54 million into a program incentivizing local governments to lower property taxes. The governor’s office additionally supports applying the state’s sales tax to digital products.

The budget plan continues to reduce sweeps from Transportation Department appropriations to balance the state’s ending budget, with the goal of phasing out the practice all together by the end of Gov. Kelly’s first term. The plan does not raise taxes and would reduce the state’s debt burden by $602.5 million by the end of the 2020 fiscal year.

RURAL PROSPERITY TOUR REPORT RELEASED

  • What’s happening?

Gov. Kelly and Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers in a Monday press conference released the Office of Rural Prosperity Listening Tour report. The summary of public feedback received and listening sessions conducted over the last year sets sights on three new Interagency Work Groups to create tools addressing rural housing, childcare, and the recruitment, retention, and education of workforces.

Lt. Gov. Rogers emphasized the need in rural Kansas for broadband access, property tax relief, and health care.

Lt. Gov. Rogers: “While the creation of the Office of Rural Prosperity and my listening tour were great first steps, we know there is much more work to do in order to facilitate growth and prosperity in rural communities. I am excited to continue working to improve rural Kansans’ quality of life one step at a time.”

Gov. Laura Kelly: “I am proud of the work Lt. Governor Rogers has done to identify rural communities’ barriers to long-term prosperity. We are committed to partnering with rural communities, to develop policies that help Kansans succeed.”

AVIATION SUPPORT WEBPAGE CREATED AHEAD OF BOEING LAYOFFS

  • What’s happening?

The state of Kansas launched a multi-agency webpage Tuesday offering resources to Wichita aviation industry workers affected by the production shutdown of the Boeing 737 Max. The Aviation Worker Response webpage, announced in a statement by Kansas Secretary of Labor Delía García in conjunction with the departments of Commerce and Children and Families, can be accessed at DOL.KS.Gov/AviationWorkerResponse.

Gov. Kelly: “My team will continue to work to connect impacted workers and businesses with the resources they need during this critical time. This information is an important first step as Secretary García coordinates our comprehensive response effort.”

Spirit AeroSystems announced on January 10 that 2,800 workers will be laid off starting Tuesday.