Monday, January 14, 2019, the gavel fell and we began the 2019 session. Even though it was not an election year for the Senate we had five Senators sworn in, four are new Senators and one replaced a Senator last year and he was reelected in November.
This year I will serve on the same committees as I have served the prior two years. If anyone is interested in attending any of these meeting they are as follows: Agriculture and Natural Resources 8:30-9:30 a.m., Financial Institutions, Insurance, Pensions and Benefits of which I am Vice Chairman 9:30-10:30 a.m. From 10:30-12:00 I serve as Vice Chairman of Senate Ways & Means. On the Ways & Means committee I serve on five budget sub committees. I will still be a member of the Buildings and Construction Committee. The Chairman of this committee is alternated from the House to the Senate each year, so I will no longer be the Chairman of this committee. The other committees I serve on are: 911 Commission, The Disabilities Concerns Commission and the office of Technology Commission. We have several rural group caucuses, which I participate in along with serving on the Transportation Task Force, which will recommend a new ten-year highway improvement plan.
On Wednesday, Governor Laura Kelly, delivered her first State of the State address. Some of her main agenda items include, more money to public education, increased funding to hire more social workers for DCF, and Medicaid expansion. Governor Kelly launched her agenda of increased spending in numerous areas, but vowed to keep her campaign promise not to increase taxes. Governor Kelly explained she would be proposing a one-year budget with a separate proposal for a two-year education plan. Kelly recommended a $92 million inflation adjustment to state aid for K-12 public schools. This would be a phase in of $364 million over four years. With this increase, the state’s education funding would increase 5.5% during the next budget year, to nearly $4.4 billion. The budget proposed a 14% increase in spending on foster care programs. Kelly’s agenda includes hiring 55 additional social workers, which would increase the department’s budget 8.7%, to $727 million. The budget includes $14 million to initiate Medicaid expansion in Kansas. The budget provided $22 million for a 2.5% salary increase for state employees, excluding the judicial system and legislative branch. An additional $3 million was earmarked to increase wages for officers of the Kansas Department of Corrections. The budget proposal would complete restoration of a 4%, or $30 million, cut in 2017 from the Board of Regents. Most of the money was previously restored to universities, but Kelly offered the final $8.9 million to be recovered. This restoration does not include previous cuts from 2008. Governor Kelly’s budget was built around the re-amortization of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System which essentially refinances the remaining $8.9 billion debt over 30 years. This is meant to provide $160 million in “short-term savings” but will extend the system’s debt until the year 2049. Larry Campbell, Governor Kelly’s budget director, said the debt would become an additional cost of approximately $7 billion. Senate leadership issued the following in response: “Governor Kelly’s budget is simply taking a different path that inevitably spends us right back into the red. She is willing to fund her irresponsible spending agenda at the expense of our Kansas retirees while placing an additional $7 billion burden on our future generations.” The budget will continue to draw $200 million annually from KDOT to finance basic government.
Thursday the Senate voted to confirm seventeen governor nominated appointments and two attorney general nominated appointments.
HARD FACTS: According to the Kansas Department of Commerce, in 2018 Kansas added over 11,000 new jobs and $1.7 billion in capital investment. GEICO announced a new service center in Lenexa, adding 500 new jobs. Spirit Aerosystems announced another major expansion with plans to add over 1,400 new jobs in the Wichita area. Since December 2017, Kansas gained 20,100 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs and 17,200 private sector jobs.
I am honored and grateful to represent the 40th Senate District in Kansas. Please do not hesitate to contact or call me with your questions and concerns, my office number is 785 296-7399 or my cell is 785 899-4700. If you are in Topeka stop by my office at 236-E.