Education, infrastructure and Medicaid expansion: These were among the top priorities Johnson Countians who participated in an event Wednesday said they want Gov. Laura Kelly to focus on in the 2020 budget.
Kelly made the stop at the University of Kansas Health System’s Westwood campus as part of her Kansan to Kansan Budget Listening Tour. Attendees broke out into facilitated groups to discuss issues the governor should focus on for the upcoming budget. Kelly said information gathered at listening sessions across the state will be made into a report that will be used when planning the budget.
“I want to make sure that my priorities in the budget reflect the priorities of Kansas as a whole,” Kelly said. “That’s what I want you to help me with tonight.”
Kelly said her administration presented a structurally sound budget to the legislature in 2019, which she said “means bringing in at least as much bread as you actually spend.” After the amendments made by the legislature, Kelly said the budget was no longer structurally sound, but it funded critical services. The state’s general budget last year was broken down as follows, according to the governor’s 2019 budget report:
- Education: 62.1%
- Human services: 26.9%
- Public safety: 6%
- General government: 4.7%
- Agriculture and natural resources: .2%
- Transportation: 0%
After an almost 40-minute long breakout session, representatives of the five small groups presented the top three priorities. Medicaid expansion and education were a top priority from each of the five groups. Other priorities included the state’s water vision plan, public transportation, climate change, criminal justice reform and legalizing marijuana.
Rep. Jerry Stogsdill was among attendees, and served as a spokesperson for one of the a small groups. His group emphasized infrastructure, climate change and education — the last of which Stogsdill said is important to the state’s future.
“The more money we can put into education, we’re actually putting into the economic future of Kansas and the economic development of Kansas,” Stogsdill said.
Kelly said Kansas has always valued education, and it came as no surprise that it ranked among the top priorities for attendees. Additionally, she said her administration — and the legislature — has been working hard on Medicaid expansion.
“I’m glad to see the continued, robust support for Medicaid expansion,” Kelly said. “You know that we were not successful in getting that passed last year, I am totally optimistic that we will get it done right this year.”