Ron Highland

District 51 Representative

“Deja Vu, all over again,” a famous quote by Yogi Berra, seems very appropriate the first week of session.

I could swear I heard the Governor’s State of the State speech last year.

The budget the Governor presented to the legislature is likewise, very similar to last year’s. The State of the State speech was a professionally-crafted political speech. It contained some promises to share some money with counties and cities, and to help with food sales tax credits. The Governor wants Medicaid expansion and school funding left alone.

The reason I called the Governor’s address a political speech is because the groundwork has been laid to blame the legislature if the promises made cannot be kept. This, in turn, becomes political advertising for candidates running in support of her agenda. Campaign season has begun.

The budget presented relies on reamortization of the KPERS debt, or better known as the unfunded liability. This refinancing move extends the period of time KPERS is considered adequately funded, and it will cost the taxpayers of Kansas an additional $4.4 billion. The state credit rating could be lowered.

Right now, KPERS is approximately 67 percent funded; 80 percent-plus is considered healthy. A similar proposal was made last year, and it was rejected by the legislature.

The KPERS Board has come out opposing the proposal. The board is responsible for the management of the fund and is liable for any errors. They take their job very seriously and aren’t too pleased when outsiders attempt to alter the plan the board has in place for funding KPERS in the future.

By refinancing the debt, the payback period is extended by 10 years at a cost of $4.4 billion. What it would do, if passed, is to reduce the annual KPERS payments made by the state by $130 – 160 million per year. Those decreased payments to KPERS would free up money to pay for the promises made and for Medicaid expansion.

Other ways the Governor intends to fund her budget is to tax all digital purchases. Examples of those include, digital music, digital books, software purchases, etc.

A quick overview of the Governor’s proposed budget:

FY 2020

• Drastically deplete the SGF ending balance from the end of FY 2019 to the end of FY 2020, from $1,105 million to $533.3 million

• Increased SGF spending by 11.25 percent, or $791.5 million, from FY 2019 to FY 2020{/div}

FY 2021

• Medicaid Expansion: adds $17.5 million SGF (Administration views as a placeholder); also plugged in $35.0 million SGF for FY 22

• More KDOT transfers: State Highway Fund transfer to the SGF is $158.7 million

• State Employee Pay Plan: adds $11.3 million SGF for 2.5 percent pay raises (only the executive branch; not the legislative and judicial branches, or the Board of Regents)

• K-12 Caseloads: Add $117.5 million SGF

• Health/Human Services Caseloads: Add $63.5 million SGF

Bottom line: The governor’s proposed budget to the legislature only balances with transfers from the State Highway Fund and KPERS reamortization. Her budget fails to consider FY 2022 and beyond, where current expenditure trends are forecasted to lead the state budget into a fiscal pit with increased debt.

The committees were busy the first week with new bill introductions, welcoming new members, establishing the rules for committee work and briefings on work to take place this year.

I was honored to be shadowed by a group from the Flint Hills Regional Leadership class — Valerie Ramage, Melissa Gamino, Kymberly Burnett, Janice Nikkel, Richard Sell and Aaron McCracken.

Garrett Reiss, a member of the Kansas Agriculture and Rural Leadership (KARL) program, also shadowed me for a day. They were eager to learn about the legislative process, and my personal views on several topics.

My phone number and email at the Capitol remains the same, 785-296-7310 and It is an honor to represent you and keep you informed with my newsletters.

If you call my office, you will be speaking to my assistant, John Willey, who schedules all my appointments and keeps me on the run. At my website f, you can find a syllabus that explains in detail how to get the legislative information you need. As always, it is an honor and privilege to serve you.

(10) comments


Typical dem sgenda, but running out of things to tax. Will be happy to leave Kansas after retirement to avoid being taxed on everything Apple Music, video rental, Netflix . No escaping!


No widespread demand for Medicaid expansion.


Cuomo grapples with exploding Medicaid costs.



Cost Overruns a Certainty With Medicaid Expansion.


Colorado Medicaid expansion cost overrun 46%.


Medicaid expansion threatens access to care.


Too bad Republicans didn't care when Brownback was raiding KPERS for his ridiculous experiment in the first place... and it's sad they are whining NOW, after the damage has been done, that Democrats aren't paying off their Republican-made debts fast enough... Cry me a river...

And I also feel this claim of $130-$160 million a year in reduced payments to KPERS is going to be needed to pay for medicaid expansion is false. States with medicaid expansion such as mine (Colorado) have had millions in budget savings. Michigan saved over a billion dollars over 3 years. Virginia saved $421 million in 2 years. The list goes on... I don't see why Kansas would be any different...

And to top it off any Kansas republican complaining about taking money from the state highway fund is laughable. Republicans there have been doing that for a very very long time. Whining because its a democrat doing it is ridiculous. Where was your outrage when Brownback was taking from KDOT/KPERS/Education? At least this budget benefits the people and not just the select few business owners. I think governor Kelly did as good of a job as possible with what she has to work with.


Very informative. We must remember that 1/3 of the governor's campaign dollars came from out of state sources. I am considering her a blip in the system that will be corrected in the next election for governor.


I think receiving help from Americans from outside the state of Kansas is better than receiving help from Russians from outside the country... but you won't hear Republicans complaining about that.

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