Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly has all-but finished the first of four annual battles with the Kansas Legislature and she had some wins and she had some losses. And the Republican-dominated Legislature? We’re not going to know whether it won or lost until next year’s elections are tallied.
It was 1:34 a.m. Sunday when the House adjourned, and the Senate? Well, it stretched to about 3:08 a.m. before senators headed to their cars after most of the bars had closed in Topeka to start calculating whether they did anything that will assist them in winning re-election.
Medicaid expansion, which was Kelly’s primary issue throughout her campaign and during the legislative session, didn’t happen. The House passed the bill, the Senate refused to even debate it for fear it would pass, and we’re in for another year when more than 100,000 Kansans (the estimates vary widely) won’t have health care, or, more precisely, the caregivers and hospitals mostly in rural areas won’t be paid for that care for Kansans.
And after passing a too-big tax bill during the regular session, lawmakers in the just-ended veto session passed a smaller measure that Kelly probably won’t sign, and we’re down to either a veto of the measure or maybe-but-unlikely allowing it to become law without her signature.
Oh, and yes, we’re in for a summer of debate over whether the tax measure passed 27-13 in the Senate and 83-41 in the House that will mean smaller checks written to the state next year is a tax “cut” for some Kansans or just a reaction to federal tax law changes the Legislature didn’t have anything to do with, making the bill Kansas taxpayer “protection,” or something else altogether.
All we know for sure on the tax issue (adjustment?) is that the state will receive smaller checks from corporations with international operations and that relatively poor Kansans will see no drop in their tax bills.
The budget? Well, best we can tell for now is that it apparently is big enough that the Kansas Supreme Court won’t close down schools next fall, and small enough that even with millions spent to rebuild state government there will still be money in the bank for next session. A little more money for highways, more money for social service and health care for the poor and elderly and raises (2.5 percent) for state employees that wouldn’t make a good tip at a restaurant.
The state’s higher education industry gets more money to hopefully hold down tuition increases and, well, a lot of other smaller, more targeted spending that ought to be locally important in many parts of the state and the legislators who represent them.
The whole story? No. Not for weeks will we see just how the session changed any Kansans’ lives. At this point, there is more spending, there are some bridges that will be given new names, there are prison employees who are looking at raises as high as 15 percent in hopes it will keep them in their jobs, and there is a boost in the amount of income the poor elderly can have and still receive care in their homes.
In the next few weeks, we’ll find out just what happened and to whom, and how the governor casts those changes and how legislators describe their actions with an eye on just what they can use for bullet points on their campaign palm cards next year.
But at least lawmakers are home until the May 29 sine die adjournment, when we see just what happens to their tax bill and whether Kelly line-item vetoes some of that 400-plus page budget she will receive this week.
And then we’ll know how she did …
— 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