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Here are 6 ways Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly wants to spend a $2 billion budget surplus

Kansas lawmakers heard Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's proposed budget that includes increasing special education by $72.4 million each year for the next five years.
Dylan Lysen
Kansas News Service
Kansas lawmakers heard Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly's proposed budget that includes increasing special education by $72.4 million each year for the next five years.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly laid out her Kansas spending priorities in a budget plan presented to the Republican-led Legislature Thursday.

TOPEKA, Kansas —  Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is urging lawmakers to spend more on special education in public schools and expand Medicaid as lawmakers prepare to use a $2 billion state surplus.

It came Thursday as Budget Director Adam Proffitt pitched Kelly’s spending plan to the Republicans that lead the Legislature’s budget committees.

The governor’s budget serves as the framework for state spending. It’s the starting point lawmakers use when crafting the nearly $9.5 billion budget for state services ranging from education to law enforcement.

Whether these proposals make it into law will depend on the Republican lawmakers in the Legislature. With a supermajority in the state House and Senate, Republicans can choose to ignore Kelly’s proposals and pass a budget with their own priorities without bipartisan support.

The$2 billionsitting in the state’s bank account virtually guarantees that the Republican-led Legislature and the Democratic governor will clash on issues like tax cuts and spending increases.

Kelly also recently proposed some tax cuts that would provide $500 million in relief over the next three years. The plan includes speeding up the phase-out of the food sales tax and eliminating sales taxes on diapers and feminine hygiene products.

Kelly also proposed reducing income taxes on Social Security for retirees and creating a three-day tax holiday for back-to-school purchases.

Here are six of Kelly’s top budget ideas:

  • Increase special education funding $72.4 million each year for the next five years. The phase-in would bring the state’s contribution for special education to the fully funded level required by law. Currently, the state is ignoring that requirement in law. The 2024 fiscal year increase would bring the state’s contribution to 77.5%. Kelly previously said the state would need to phase-in the increases to make sure other state services are not affected. 

  • Expand Medicaid to receive between $370 and $450 million in additional federal funding. Kelly’s administration estimates the new federal funding would cover the state’s share of the increased Medicaid costs for about eight years.

  • Add more than $5 million to increase reimbursements to family and friends who take on foster children.

  • Increase funding to post-secondary education by $107.9 million, including $20 million for financial aid at the state’s public universities. 

  • Add another $500 million to the state’s rainy fund to bring the account to $1.5 billion, which Kelly proposes as a cap for the fund.

  • Provide $220 million that could be used by cities and counties to cover matching-fund requirements to receive federal funding for infrastructure projects and other needs.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

As the Kansas social services and criminal justice reporter, I want to inform our audience about how the state government wants to help its residents and keep their communities safe. Sometimes that means I follow developments in the Legislature and explain how lawmakers alter laws and services of the state government. Other times, it means questioning the effectiveness of state programs and law enforcement methods. And most importantly, it includes making sure the voices of everyday Kansans are heard. You can reach me at dlysen@kcur.org, 816-235-8027 or on Threads, @DylanLysen.
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