As I travel throughout the state, I’m impressed by Kansans’ energy and optimism. Even as we tackle serious problems, there’s renewed spirit and dedication.
I’ve also been heartened by feedback from people across the state — and equally encouraged by my administration’s work to repair programs and restore services Kansans want and need.
After I took office, we set out to hear from Kansans at town halls, listening sessions, roundtable discussions and other public gatherings.
We haven’t been disappointed.
Kansans are smart and practical. They embrace fiscal responsibility. They want pragmatic, thoughtful solutions.
And we are on that path. We funded schools, and our careful budgeting led to the state’s largest ending balance in a decade.
We also will continue to reject reckless tax-policy proposals — and instead align with Kansans who value strong schools, good roads and healthy communities.
To start, Kansans have been loud and clear in calling for the responsible expansion of KanCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Retaining our federal tax dollars and providing affordable health care for some 150,000 uninsured Kansans is both morally and fiscally responsible.
Preventive care wards off more serious and costly ailments, making expansion a prudent investment in healthier families and communities. Unfortunately, the state so far has turned away more than $3.7 billion in federal funds since January 2014 — dollars that would aid Kansas hospitals struggling with the cost of uncompensated care.
The Governor’s Council on Medicaid Expansion has studied expansion models in other states so we can avoid repeating their mistakes. Kansas needs a straightforward approach, not one that’s overly complex and costly. The bipartisan plan we recently unveiled would address those concerns.
We’re also listening and responding to Kansans who need tax relief.
Among recent recommendations from the bipartisan Governor’s Council on Tax Reform were a food sales-tax rebate to help Kansans who need it most, and a return to a tax-reduction fund that would give local governments more ability to lower property taxes.
Labor shortages plague businesses and communities statewide, as well. Technical and trade schools, and other job training programs deliver a strong return on investment. Early education and K-12 public schools form the foundation for success, and also cannot be shortchanged.
Another strategy to grow the labor pool rests in our prisons. The shift from strictly punitive strategies to more workforce training will help fill job openings — and also reduce recidivism.
It’s one step needed to address overcrowded prisons. Corrections, as well as our foster-care system, were severely undermined. To repair both systems under great stress, we’re implementing proven programs and strategies designed to restore those vital services.
Road projects also took a hit in recent years. Kansans know good infrastructure enables economic growth and enhances safety in communities large and small. We’re ending the senseless diversion of funds away from highways by closing the so-called “Bank of KDOT.” Moving forward, we envision a more modern plan for our fast-changing transportation landscape.
Kansans also have helped guide us by speaking out in public gatherings for our new economic development “Framework for Growth,” and our new Office of Rural Prosperity designed to aid in rural improvement efforts.
We’ll keep listening, with more public events to come. Other opportunities to share input are available through our Virtual Town Hall at
Governor.kansas.gov, or by emailing us at GovEvents@ks.gov.
Working together, we'll chart an even better course for Kansas in 2020 and beyond.
Laura Kelly is the 48th governor of Kansas.