Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Sen. Ethan Corson, and Reps. Susan Ruiz and Lindsay Vaughn are scheduled to send updates this week.
Below is the submission from Democratic state Sen. Ethan Corson of Senate District 7, which covers Fairway, Mission, Mission Hills, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Westwood, Westwood Hills, and parts of Leawood and Overland Park.
If you’re anything like me, as the curtain falls on the 2021 legislative session, there’s an understandable tendency to focus on the legislature’s many missed opportunities to enact legislation that would have benefitted Kansans, such as Medicaid expansion and reducing the sales tax on food. And also focus on the harmful legislation that was enacted, like voter suppression bills and tax cuts for giant multinational corporations.
Heck, the KC Star wrote that our legislative session was even worse than Missouri’s! Now that’s saying something!
While I worry about the sustainability of our budget over the medium term, I believe we ended with a relatively solid budget that includes critical investments in several key areas.
For example, the budget:
- Increases funding for higher education by $53 million, including funding for need-based aid and other student scholarships, economic development, staff recruitment and retention and other priorities.
- Increases funding for the judicial branch by $17 million, which will allow for long overdue pay raises for judicial branch employees and the hiring of 70 court services officers. Even before the pandemic, our judicial branch was woefully underfunded, so these resources were much needed. As just one example, judicial staff salaries range from 2.7% to 18.9% below market average.
- Includes $2.7 million for certified community behavioral health centers, which will increase access to mental health and substance use treatment across the state.
- Adds $3.6 million to the Board of Indigents’ Defense Services to increase the assigned counsel rate up to $100 per hour for FY 2022 to address a public defender system that has been underfunded for decades.
- Provides a $36 million increase in the state’s share of a Medicaid waiver program that provides services for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities who want to live at home, instead of an institutional setting.
I’m proud that I’ll be standing behind Gov. Kelly when she signs into law legislation that will fully fund our school system for the next two years. This is a major accomplishment.
Please feel free to reach out to me about these and other issues.
I can be reached at (785) 414-9215 or Ethan.Corson@senate.ks.gov.
To keep you informed about my work in Topeka, I send out a weekly email newsletter when the Legislature is in session. You can sign-up to receive it here.
I also host monthly town halls at 9:00AM on the fourth Saturday of each month. Sign up here to receive the Zoom link.