She won some, the Legislature won some, and there were a few nice little, but not earthshaking, changes made to the state.
Almost, and here’s that ugly comparison, like leaving the new cat while you went to the store and finding on return that it had used the litter box. What an admittedly small relief.
But this is just year one of the Kelly regime, and the first year of a split (mostly in the House) Republican Party in the Legislature battling each other to see who is in charge. And while there was the persistent back-and-forth over public policy, over “how Kansans want things,” lawmakers and the governor actually got some good things done. Just not headline-grabbing stuff that they can brag about this summer while lawmakers gear up for next year’s elections which put every House and Senate seat up for grabs.
The session, though, did create new and powerful political issues for the election-year Legislature which convenes Jan. 13, 2020, and will probably create the issues that Kansans will be voting on that fall.
No action on income taxes, either for individual voters or for the multinational corporations which employ many of them. That’s the No. 1 issue in an election year, and the clear fight will be just how the Legislature and governor spread them across the state—to businesses or voters, or to voters and businesses in some proportion that will get lawmakers re-elected.
The tax issue? That’s going to be finger-pointing at the federal government which lowered rates two years ago that increased Kansans’ taxable income base. Who gets helped, of course, is the election-year session issue, but this year’s failure of the Legislature to override Kelly’s veto means little likelihood of a retroactive cut which would boost state revenue loss. It means essentially a year’s bonus for the Kansas treasury, and failing to reduce Kansas income taxes is politically different from affirmatively acting to raise Kansas taxes. Or so we’ll hear during next session.
No action on expansion of Medicaid to maybe 100,000 or more Kansans (the numbers are unclear now and will remain so until provisions of an expansion bill are adopted). That was a big issue in Kelly’s election campaign. Not sure whether that got her elected, or whether not being conservative Republican then-Secretary of State Kris Kobach tipped the balance.
After the roadblock this year, look for a tense election-year Medicaid expansion bill, one that is designed by Republicans to tightly limit qualification for the health care and fought by Democrats for exempting some needy Kansans from health care coverage. That’s the fight that will brew all summer in a Senate interim committee.
But this session, which actually didn’t produce a lot of new law most Kansans will notice, provided a warm-up for the real test of the governor: The 2020 election in which the entire House and Senate will stand for re-election. That’s the test that will determine whether the final two years of Kelly’s (first?) term will put her stamp on this Republican state.
The line-item budget veto overrides by the Legislature? Good as talking points, but don’t really amount to earth-shakers on the campaign trail…
Round 1 is a draw. We’ll see who gains ground with lawmakers at home.
Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com