Earlier in this Legislative Session, with the full support and pressure from Speaker Ryckman, Senate Resolution No. 1613 was brought up on final action in the House. The vote fell four votes short of the ⅔ or 84 votes needed to amend the Kansas constitution and have the amendment on the Primary Ballot in August. The eighty or so supporters in the House are a combination of straight-forward Pro-Life believers mixed with conservatives who are playing politics for their own re-election hopes and to expand their voter base. They use the issue to get the turnout they need in the August primary to defeat high-quality moderates.
Shortly after the vote, I posted a series of tweets that outlined both the direct impact on women and their reproductive rights as well as some of the other consequences that could come if our state were to take such a drastic and extreme action on this issue. In this blog, I’d like to expand on some of the potential outcomes that may or may not have been intended but will most certainly have a damaging effect on the growth and future of our state.
I’ve been in politics in one way or another for a long time, and I sort of understand why such practices in today's politics happen. What I do not understand is why these same elected officials do not appreciate the devastating link such decisions have on the growth and economy of our state and the higher taxes and lesser results for Kansas taxpayers that would come with such actions.
We’ve been through this before. Have we already forgotten the lousy national press Kansas got during the Brownback era when a number of stupid policy decisions were made and the accompanying downward trend in so many critical areas of economic impact and quality of life took place? Having TV comedians use Kansas to get laughs for themselves and their sponsors’ financial gain is at our expense and one that we cannot afford. People see these messages and take them into account, whether you’re a person considering relocating to Kansas or a business that is looking for a place to invest.
By every serious measure and the forces of larger economic trends, Kansas is losing population. This is especially true when it comes to our young people in the state, who are leaving at an even higher rate to seek higher wages and better quality of life elsewhere. Over the past several years, GDP growth in Kansas state has lagged behind our state’s previous economic performance and other comparable states. And wage growth is lagging as well, which is so critical to keeping more of our citizens here to raise their families and live a good life in our state.
When people leave our state, it leaves fewer people behind to pay the taxes and maintain the services and quality of life we’ve all come to expect and appreciate about our state. And one of the largest quality of life issues we have is access to health care in our state. This makes the effort to tie the constitutional amendment to Medicaid expansion, which would provide health care to more Kansans, particularly destructive for people all across the state, especially in rural areas. At a time when our state’s population is decreasing, we should be working to find ways to make our communities better places to live and work and raise the quality of life for all Kansans.
There are many factors to why our population is decreasing, and it will need to be addressed through a number of different policy measures. But why in the world would we consider enacting a policy that would move us further backward on our growth goals?
Governor Kelly and her administration are working on a plan to grow Kansas and turn around the actions that put us close to the bottom of states in many areas. They are working to move past our previous mistakes that have impact on keeping as well as attracting growth, people, and businesses as well as slowing the exodus of too many of our young people.
What the Republican leadership wants to do with this Abortion Resolution, in my opinion, is one of the worst, dumbest actions in my 50 plus years engaged in Kansas public policy because of its economic impacts far, far beyond the issue of abortion itself. An August 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 70% of adults under 30 support legal abortion. Keeping and attracting the young talent we need will just be all the more difficult. Despite all the positive actions that can be taken to turn Kansas around, a decision like this could significantly reduce the gains that make our state more attractive for internal growth and new businesses and residents.