Failure to expand medicaid funding was the biggest loss of the session. As a result, thousands of Kansans will continue without any form of health care support. The Administration and Democratic-Moderate Republican coalitions in the House and Senate certainly made every effort to get it done. I also think the Administration worked quite well to educate the public and gain support, which I am sure increased overall public support for expansion to even higher levels than before the session began. In the end, it was Republican Senate leadership that would not even allow a final vote.
The slowness of the legislative confirmation process made it difficult for the new Administration to get off to a fast start, but some of the delay was due to the lateness of the nominations being submitted. The very partisan battle over confirmation of the Secretary of Commerce certainly didn’t help that department move quickly on rebuilding and setting a sound direction for the agency, which was totally lacking in the Brownback Administration. And the confirmation process for Secretary Toland may also set a bad precedent for future hearings that, until now, were very seldom partisan.
Progress was made in reducing the infrastructure taxes you pay in dedicated sales taxes, being taken from highway maintenance for support of education and other general fund responsibilities. This was started in the Brownback Administration to minimize underfunding of key programs at the expense of taking care of our highway system, which negative results would not show up until a new administration was in power. The Governor’s recommendation to reduce that transfer helped but at some point we need to stop that practice or it will become a standard way to help fund the general budget.
There are a few issues remaining before final adjournment of the Legislature on May 29th. Focus will be on any vetoes the Governor makes on passed legislation or line items in the budget. To override vetoes, it takes a ⅔ vote in each House. I doubt there will be much if any success given a number of the override votes will not come to Topeka for such a limited agenda, but it will be something to keep an eye on.
For the future of Kansas to be bright, we must restore the civil service to the quality Kansans need and deserve, fund our infrastructure at an investment level that makes good sense, and fill back in the many funding gaps of the many agencies and programs hurt by Governor Brownback and the far-right legislators. In dealing with these needs next year, given we will have the same Legislature and in an election year, it is not realistic to expect too much progress. Although, the time back in their respective districts will provide opportunities for citizens to speak up on the many key issues facing our state.