The Kansas House is starting to work on a few bills in committee, the first week was mainly social and getting acquainted with new legislators and lobbyists. My committee assignments are agriculture and natural resources, financial institutions/ pensions and health/ human services.

We are looking closely at Governor Kelly’s new budget proposal and our job will be to allocate available funding and future sustainability of our great state of Kansas. Governor Kelly has proposed re-amortizing Kansas Public Employee Pension again. I am against this proposal. If I may, it is like having a 20 year mortgage on the house, paying 15 years of payments and getting the interest paid down and then re-financing for another 30 years until payoff.

I support paying our debts and obligations first and then look at expansion of another program. The re-amortization would cost an estimated $4.4 billion more in interest over the 25-year period. When we borrow money from KPERS, the state pays 7.75 percent interest on that borrowed money. In 2015, the Kansas Legislature infused $1 billion into the KPERS pension fund to make sure solvency of the pension fund.

We are making progress on getting the fund back in good health. KPERS is currently 70 percent funded. Previously delayed KPERS payments to school systems have not helped to maintain the system. Last year the Senate proposed to make our $97 million payment with added interest for a total of $115 million. Interest is nearly $20 million per year. I support honoring our obligation to make sure an existing pension fund is in good health, but do not like using the “bank” of KPERS to expand another program we cannot afford on the backs of retirees. I have heard from several teachers that support not re-amortizing the KPERS pension fund, many have stated they would rather not receive an annual pay raise in lieu of insuring that funds are there for retirement.

 

Value them both

The big buzz under the dome is “Value Them Both” and the priority legislation is on the Constitutional Amendment, HCR 5019/SCR 1613. The Resolution is being proposed in effort to remedy the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision on Hodes & Nauser v. Schmidt from April 2019, which essentially determined that the Kansas Constitution contains a right to an abortion. Because of this ruling, several laws which received bipartisan support have lost their legal basis and may be deemed unconstitutional. Both House and Senate committees passed out their respective concurrent resolutions. HC 5019 passed on a vote of 15-6 and SCR 1613 passed with a majority vote by voice. Once these receive a 2/3 majority vote in both chambers, the question outlined in the resolutions will be placed on the 2020 Primary Election to give voters of Kansas an opportunity to voice their opinion. Kansans should have the right to decide whether they want Kansas to be a pro-life state or not. I will support this resolution to allow you, as voters to decide the outcome. Frankly I am tired of un-elected judges deciding the will of the people. This Constitutional Amendment will not change any current abortion laws, only decide who has the authority to decide, unelected judges or your elected Representatives!

 

Make Kansas work

Republican leadership has a better plan for Kansas. That plan is Make Kansas Work. This plan features five bills that offer Kansas solutions for challenges facing our great state.

Innovative Funding for Rural Health Care tax relief for Seniors — Creates $30,000,000 fund using public dollars matched by private dollars to be granted to rural hospitals and changes to protect health care in rural areas.

Tax relief for Seniors — Raise the exemption for seniors on social security from $75,000 to $100,000 in annual income.

Saving program for first time home buyers — A savings program modeled on the state’s successful 529 education savings plan.

Kansas Promise Act Workforce development — Tuition assistance — This plan is modeled after the successful Tennessee Promise Act to offer scholarships to Kansas graduates who agree to complete a certificate or two-year program in one of the state’s high need areas for labor.

Kansas Targeted Employment Act — This would allow integrated workshops where people with disabilities would work alongside of those who receive public assistance but want to work. Private businesses would receive tax credits as long the workers are paid minimum wage.

Check MakeKansasWork.com for more information on these Republican initiatives.

 

State Rep. Doug Blex, R-Independence, represents most of Cowley County and all of Chautauqua County. He can be reached at (785) 296-5863 or doug.blex@house.ks.gov.

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