As the session opened in January of 2020, we were poised to pass a food sales tax reduction and Medicaid Expansion. We defeated the repeated attempts to give the ultra-wealthy, multi-national businesses yet another tax cut so that we could finally give a tax cut to hard-working Kansans buying groceries. Additionally, the Governor worked out a compromise with Senate GOP Leadership to secure long-awaited health insurance for 140,000 Kansans.
January went by. February went by. Half of March went by. Then the CORVID-19 pandemic struck and forced the Legislature to flee Topeka. Prior to leaving, we passed a transportation bill, a budget, and a resolution giving the Governor emergency powers. Those three massive responsibilities were passed within a week. The preceding 2 and a half months were wasted.
A bright spot for Newton was that $1 million was secured for Ember Hope’s (Youthville’s) participation as a Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF). Youthville continues to do great things for its clients and Kansas overall. I am happy they are back serving in Newton!
On balance, however, the majority party wasted much of the session and leaves the important decisions either undone, or punted to the very end of the session. Every legislator in the Capitol knew the food sales tax was among the highest in the country and that we had turned away billions of dollars that would have helped hard-working families gain access to affordable health care, yet week after week, they did nothing. I tried on several attempts to bring the bills to the floor, only to be rebuffed by the majority set against tax relief and better health care for working Kansans.
The majority party would rather litter mail boxes with lies and innuendo to distract voters from the real issues at hand. This costly delay and distraction has damaged us all. While we await to see the fallout from the virus, our most vulnerable citizens pay a cruelly high food sales tax and struggle with health care. Those who have lost their job will be faced with navigating a health care mine field as they try to provide for their family. Shame on them.
Presently, I continue to make daily contact with the Department of Labor regarding its weak, out-dated website that is shutting out too many Kansans seeking relief from job losses. There are many excuses and blame for this, but for now, we need to get people the resources they need to get through this. While the website is getting marginally better, I encourage those having trouble, to message my Facebook page so I can get your request directly to the Department of Labor.
Two main issues are still unresolved. Those are: 1) the extra $600 per week that furloughed workers are entitled to, and 2) Benefits for the self-employed. Both are new Federal allowances and the software must still be developed. I am confident folks will receive the benefits they worked for, but unfortunately it will take time.
In addition, small businesses, please continue to work with your local lenders to secure the Payroll Protection Program Loans.
In the coming weeks, Governmental entities will need to work with our federal delegation to shore up their budgets. Please join me in contacting our representatives in Washington to make sure they remember Kansas.
We need to open up again. Kids need to get back to school, sports and art. People need to see and interact with each other again. Businesses need to come back and be supported. Churches need to meet. We need to do this responsibly. No matter how annoying or embarrassing, we need to observe social distancing guidelines, follow CDC guidelines, and keep the spread of this virus to a minimum.
In conclusion, I have hope that the future will be better, and we will emerge from this stronger. We will get through this. Be kind to each other.