The 2020 legislative session began this week, highlighted by Gov. Laura Kelly’s State of the State address. In her 37-minute speech, the governor clearly indicated that her top priority this session is Medicaid expansion. She also signaled that she would continue to oppose tax reform proposals prioritized by Republicans. That sets up at least two points of contention between the governor and the Republican-controlled legislature.
First Medicaid expansion. Last year, a bill to expand Medicaid fell one vote short of passage in the Senate. This year, one of those 'no' votes—Sen. Jim Denning—has reached a deal with Gov. Kelly and other expansion proponents on a plan to expand Medicaid. The bipartisan agreement would expand the state’s health coverage for lower income by about 150,000 people. It also includes provisions Republicans have wanted, such as a work-referral program. KMS supports this expansion plan, as we have consistently supported legislative efforts to see all Kansans insured in a fiscally sustainable way that does not shift costs among providers.
Although it looks like the majority in both the Senate and House now support expansion, Republican leadership in each chamber have indicated they continue to oppose it—including Senate President Susan Wagle, House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., and House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins.
On taxes, the governor expressed support for reducing property and food sales taxes. However, she signaled she continues to oppose tax reform proposals supported by Republicans, saying she would “veto any tax bill that comes to my desk that throws our state back into fiscal crisis, or debt, or sends us back to court for underfunding our schools.” The governor’s reasoning was similar last year in vetoing two tax bills prioritized by Republicans. In his response to Gov. Kelly's address, Ryckman said leadership would continue to press for tax reform, which we now know will require a veto-proof majority.
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Next week, we anticipate the House and Senate health committees will begin meeting. We will keep you updated as issues arise, and bills are introduced that could affect the practice of medicine in our state.