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Kansas Gov. Kelly warns against politics in classrooms, renews calls for medical marijuana

Jonathan Shorman and Katie Bernard, The Kansas City Star on

Published in News & Features

On taxes, Kelly and Republican leadership are fairly close on tax policy this year with a shared goal of reducing income taxes on social security. Republicans, however, have introduced legislation that takes that a step further, eliminating income tax on social security and reducing it on other retirement benefits.

Republicans have indicated a willingness to negotiate with Kelly on immediately eliminating the state sales tax on food. Lawmakers approved, and Kelly signed, a gradual repeal this spring that will eventually cost the state about $400 million in revenue a year.

Some lawmakers want to explore a flat tax that would almost certainly garner a veto from Kelly. The Kansas Chamber of Commerce introduced legislation in both chambers that would institute a flat income tax at 2.25%. The bill includes a mechanism that could gradually draw state income tax down to zero if the state is drawing in more tax revenue than estimated.

Hawkins said Republicans will pass policy reducing Social Security income, but that it would be tied to other tax policy.

“She will make a choice whether she’s going to veto it or not,” he said.

Kelly on Tuesday night didn’t directly respond to any specific proposal, but promised to oppose ideas that erode the state’s “fiscal foundation.” Kansas experienced years of budget shortfalls until lawmakers largely rolled back former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s 2012 income tax cuts in 2017.

“We have been there before. We know where it leads. And we can’t go back,” Kelly said.

“Not to debt. Crumbling roads. An overwhelmed foster care system. And perhaps most devastating of all, underfunded schools,” she said. “We cannot go back to the days where financial irresponsibility here in Topeka robbed our Kansas students of opportunity.”


Kelly will once again have to work with a supermajority Republican Legislature to accomplish her agenda. Republicans in the House and Senate this year have shown a greater level of cooperation between the chambers than in previous years.

The Democratic governor has long pushed for Medicaid expansion, which would provide health coverage to an estimated additional 100,000 residents or more, every year in office. After the speech Hawkins said, “Medicaid is not going to go anywhere” despite yet another plea from Kelly.

“Now I know, I sound like a broken record, but it’s only because we have a broken healthcare system,” Kelly said.

Kelly also called for action on another long-standing issue: the state’s water supply.

Some estimates indicate parts of western Kansas could run out of water in 10 years as the Ogallala aquifer depletes. While there is a bipartisan acknowledgment of the issue little has been done in the Legislature to address it.

“Waiting for some miracle to happen is not an option. We have to do something,” Kelly said. “All that we’ve achieved in the past four years is put at risk by inaction.”


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