Two weeks before state Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, is sworn in as governor, she’s already accomplished an amazing feat … darn it.
Besides hiring a handful of administration staffers, she’s managed to keep her Cabinet secretaries who will run state agencies confidential and she has kept quiet on the initiatives that will become the headlines for what is likely to be a dramatic change in the way the state operates.
It’s all generalities so far. No details, just pretty much repeating the same issues that she holds important — and has for years … darn it.
It means little hot news as outgoing Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer makes sure that he didn’t leave anything embarrassing in a desk drawer that Kelly is going to get the keys to in two weeks.
And that’s why the handful of remaining Statehouse reporters are scurrying around trying to find out what’s going on. Call it secret, call it businesslike, call it what you want, but this is one of the quietest not-quite-yet changeovers in the governor’s office in recent memory.
Just how long things keep quiet is not quite unclear.
Kelly will appoint her Cabinet probably a couple days before she takes the oath of office — or maybe not. The state pay period ends on Jan. 12, and you gotta figure that current Cabinet officers are going to want to buy that new car while they are still on the state payroll, and that new Cabinet officers aren’t going to be getting a car loan before they officially have a job.
Kelly, as a first-term governor, has 21 days from swearing-in to release her first budget according to the Kansas Constitution. (Carryover governors have just eight days after the Legislature convenes for the session to issue their budget.)
So, we could be looking to Feb. 3 (a Sunday, so probably a day or two earlier) for release of her budget. And that’s the real key to the session. The Inaugural Address, well, that’s largely where she wants the state to go, not tax-dollar by tax-dollar how she intends to get it there.
Of course, we know she wants to finance at a constitutional level K-12 public education. She and the rest of the state have a Kansas Supreme Court order that says the state needs to spend about $90 million a year more to get it to that level. And everyone wants the kids to get a good education, so they can support themselves and their families, and the state prospers with a good work force right here at home.
And Kelly wants to expand Medicaid (call it KanCare) in Kansas, to take full advantage of federal assistance to provide health care to the poor, the elderly, the disabled and their children. Call it public health, call it assisting health-care providers, so we keep hospitals open in small rural towns. Call it what you want, but it’s a priority for Kelly and depending how you phrase it, it’s a priority for Kansas.
Don’t forget that she also wants good highways and other transportation for Kansans driving to work and to visit their relatives, and … for the transport of goods to keep the Kansas economy strong.
Nothing there most Kansans don’t want … but it’s how much and whose money is used to achieve those priorities that will be the scrap this session.
So that’s why this pre-session secrecy is tantalizing.
Who’s going to run what, what’s going to be funded, who is going to pay for it and what Republicans do in the way of agreeing with Kelly or painting her vision for the state as “un-Kansas” or unaffordable?
But — at least we Statehouse reporters — would like a drib or drab of news in the meantime…
— 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