Gov. Laura Kelly advocated for Medicaid expansion and said a tax bill she recently vetoed would have taken the state in the wrong direction during a town hall Friday in Salina. About 130 people attended the event.
Kelly vetoed SB 22 last month and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce has called for the Legislature to override Kelly’s veto. Kelly said signing the bill would have been a poor decision for the state.
“That bill would have made a sharp U-turn right back into the ditch,” she said. “You all made clear during the campaign that you want your schools funded, you would like roads funded, you want medicaid expanded, you’d like us to fix the foster care system, and in Salina, you would particularly like us to restore the Arts Commission. We wouldn’t be able to do any of those things if SB 22 would have become law."
Senate Bill 22 would exempt certain types of business income from state taxes, which would benefit multi-national corporations. The bill would also allow Kansans to itemize deductions on their state taxes, even if they use the standard deduction when filing their federal taxes.
Other provisions would reduce the state sales tax on food by one percent and apply sales taxes to out-of-state vendors that sell items online to Kansas customers.
The bill would reduce state revenue by $210 million in the 2020 fiscal year.
In a phone interview before the town hall, Kansas Republican Chairman Mike Kuckelman said he would like to see the Kansas Legislature override Kelly’s veto.
“It passed by high margins in the house and senate,” he said. “SB 22 simply gives Kansans back the money the federal government made available to Kansas through its legislation. A lot of agricultural folks need to itemize. Without SB 22, several Kansans would see more taxes than before.”
Kuckelman said that rejecting SB 22 would amount to a stealth tax increase for Kansans. He encouraged Kelly to seek additional revenue from the Legislature directly, rather than opposing SB22, if she believes the state government needs the funds.
“This is a stealth way to take more money from Kansas,” he said. “It is a tax increase, it’s just not transparent.”
Kelly encouraged the Kansas Legislature to approve Medicaid expansion, which she said 77 percent of Kansans support. She announced good news from the Kansas Senate at the end of the forum.
“Anthony Hensley, the minority leader in the state Senate, just made a motion in the state Senate to bring Medicaid expansion above the line, which means it goes to vote,” she said.
“Today is the last day in the regular session, so it will come the next session day, which will be May 1. On May 1, they will vote on Medicaid expansion,” Kelly said before people applauded.
Under Obamacare, states that expand their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income individuals and families can receive funds from the federal government, which will cover 90 percent of the cost of the expansion.
The Kansas House approved Medicaid expansion last month. Kelly has urged Senate President Susan Wagle, who wants more time to study whether to expand Medicaid, to bring the bill forward for a vote.
The plan passed by the Kansas House is expected to cost $30 million in 2020, after taking into account an estimated increase in tax revenue from $1 billion in federal funds. An amendment, which added $25 monthly fees for people who would be covered under the expansion, is expected to fully offset the cost.
Kelly said the state has foregone significant federal funds by not expanding Medicaid earlier.
“We’ve already left over $3 billion in Washington D.C. to go to other states to take care of their people and go to their economies,” Kelly said. “It’s time. It’s not only a good thing for Kansas, it’s a good thing for our economy.”
Those who object to the cost are concerned that more people than expected could sign up, and that expansion will add to federal deficit.
Kelly announced that she plans to sign an education funding bill that would add $90 million into K-12 education to account for inflation, which the Kansas Supreme Court previously ruled was necessary for the Legislature to adequately fund education in the state. The Legislature approved the bill earlier this week.