Statement on the Governor’s line-item veto of additional KPERS contributions

May 21, 2019 by

Kansas NEA remains committed to the long term viability and security of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. No retiree benefits or future payments will be impacted by Governor Kelly’s recent action to line-item veto an additional payment to KPERS this year.

We have opposed all legislative actions that delayed payments, reduced employer contributions and contributed to the unfunded actuarial liability. These actions have been irresponsible and demonstrate a lack of respect for public employees, including the thousands of teachers who serve our students every day.

We also recognize that Governor Laura Kelly, during her time in the Kansas Senate did not support legislation that harmed KPERS or delayed or reduced the employer payments made by the state.

We were pleased when the legislature passed and the Governor signed into law a $115 million payment to KPERS during this legislative session. We also appreciate that the legislature saw fit to make a promised $51 million payment – a payment which would not have been necessary had the legislature honored their obligations in the first place. Passage of the $115 million increase in KPERS contributions fulfills a promise made when earlier payments were withheld.

Legislators who- in the past- supported the failed Brownback tax experiment are responsible for the actions taken since 2012. These actions have harmed KPERS and now require the state to make up for funding withheld to pay for the devastation caused by irresponsible tax policy. We wonder, where was the concern for KPERS when these conservative leaders created and supported the agenda of Sam Brownback that drove Kansas to the verge of bankruptcy?

Legislators who refused to expand KanCare as too costly and resisted school funding increases also worked diligently to bust the budget through tax cuts for multinational corporations and then, expanded KPERS payments. Such actions were intended to score political points and craft campaign postcards. These legislators – who voted to withhold KPERS payments in the past – now want to paint themselves as the saviors of the system and attack the Governor.

In 2017, the legislature reversed much of the failed Brownback tax experiment to put the state back on the path to prosperity. While much progress has been made, the state is still not in a position to consider new expenditures which do not address the core obligations of the state – public education, public safety, infrastructure, and the needs of the working poor and foster children.

Governor Kelly’s veto of the additional $51 million for KPERS is in line with her commitment to recovery and budget stability. The best long-term solution for both KPERS and the state is to ensure stability in the budget. Without such long-term stability, Kansas cannot manage a quality foster care system, provide safe working conditions in our corrections system, maintain good roads and highways, or control the spiraling costs of higher education.

Still, our long-standing and unwavering commitment to retirement security for current and future retirees makes us wish that such an action was unnecessary. We call upon the legislature to renew its commitment to the people of Kansas and resist the effort to compromise the state’s ability to pay for the core services upon which all Kansans depend.

That is why we applaud Governor Kelly’s veto of two bills cutting taxes for the wealthiest individuals and multinational corporations. We understand the rationale for the veto of this additional KPERS contribution, but we would remind all that an investment in retirement security is an investment in our economy. Unlike multinational corporations that continually threaten to leave our state, public employees, secure in their retirement years, will stay in Kansas and spend their retirement benefits within the Kansas economy.

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Governor’s Budget funds schools, health care, foster care… but does not raise taxes.

Jan 17, 2019 by

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly

Governor Kelly outlined her vision for Kansas in her first State of the State Address last night and the focus was on three areas: 1) funding our K-12 schools to end the “cycle of litigation,” 2) expanding Medicaid to provide health insurance for 150,000 more Kansans, and 3) restoring our foster care system so that children are cared for. One thing the Governor’s budget does not include is a tax increase.

This morning Budget Director Larry Campbell appeared before a joint meeting of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees to put some meat on the bones of her speech. Campbell served as a Republican State Representative from Olathe before being picked by former Governor Colyer to serve as Budget Director. Governor Kelly has kept Campbell on. He is noted for his even temper, pragmatic outlook, and ability to work “across the aisle” to find solutions to complex problems.

Kelly’s budget is a one year budget except for K-12 education with is a two-year budget. For the past eight years, the Legislature has adopted two-year budgets but Kelly is breaking with that cycle this year, instead focusing on moving ahead for one year while the state continues to recover from the failed Brownback tax experiment that left Kansas on the brink of bankruptcy.

Under Kelly’s budget State Foundation Aid (BASE) would rise from the current $4165 in 2019 to $4436 in 2020, $4569 in 2021, $4706 in 2022, and $4846 in 2023. Beginning in 2024 the base would rise by the Consumer Price Index each year. This funding would provide for the inflation factor that the Supreme Court noted in the last Gannon school finance decision.

The proposal would:

  • Add $521 million from 2020 through 2023 for State Foundation Aid,
  • Fully fund LOB State Aid each year,
  • Continue funding for mental health intervention teams and the Juvenile Transitional Crisis Center in 2020,
  • Fully fund ACT and/or WorkKeys tests in 2020, and
  • Include $950,000 for the Education Super Highway, which will enable $9.5 million in matching federal funds for rural internet broadband initiatives.

Kelly asks the Legislature to pass her school funding plan by February 28 in order to satisfy the Supreme Court ruling.

Here’s what Governor Kelly had to say about education in her speech last night:

[T]hroughout Kansas’ decades-long debate over school funding, we’ve fallen into a troubling pattern. It begins with a promise from elected leaders to fund our schools. Then a failure to follow through on that promise.


That is going to change this year. This year, we will end this cycle of litigation and meet the needs of our students and teachers once and for all.


The days of doing the bare minimum to fund our schools are over. It stops now.


Remember, just a few short years ago, schools closed early because they literally could not afford to stay open. Test scores dropped for the first time in a decade. Class sizes grew – some with more than 30 kids in a single classroom.


Superintendents and principals struggled to hold their districts together, often taking on multiple roles like counselor or bus driver. Sometimes they even refused to be paid, just to keep their budgets above water.
Teachers fled the state. And those who stayed received an average salary that ranked 42nd in the nation.


The consequences were tangible and the scars are lasting.
Never again.


The consequences were tangible and the scars are lasting.
Never again.

We’re going to properly fund our schools this year. And next year. And the year after that. Every year, every month, every day that I’m governor. 

And we’re going to make sure our schools prepare our children for a changing economy. Modern classrooms with modern technologies.

Because at the end of the day, we need our children to graduate high school or college or technical school so they can find jobs right here in Kansas. So they can stay here and raise their families close to home.

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We Had an Election!

Nov 7, 2018 by

Governor-Elect, Laura Kelly

The 2018 election is finally over and the preliminary results are in. It’s what you might call a “mixed bag.”

On the one hand, on the federal level, the Democrats have taken control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Kansas is part of that change with the defeat of Kevin Yoder and the election of Sharice Davids in CD 3 which includes Johnson and Wyandotte Counties and part of Miami County. The new House of Representatives is likely to act as a check on President Trump and especially the wishes of his Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

Kansas has also elected a Democratic Governor and sent Kris Kobach back to the private sector- although no one really believes he will be gone for long. The extreme conservative ideology of the Brownback administration will be replaced by an administration known for cooperation and compromise. We look forward to that!

But there are some significant changes to the Kansas House of Representatives and the possibility of big changes in our Senate as well despite the fact that only one Senate seat was on the ballot this year.

So what follows is our preliminary analysis. We should let you know that we are working off the Secretary of State’s preliminary election results and final results won’t be available for a while yet. While not likely, it is possible that some results could change.

Additionally, we warn you that when looking at new Republican legislators it is sometimes difficult to be certain whether they will fall into the Moderate or Conservative camps once they start voting. We rely on the wisdom of those who have some familiarity with them but it’s not a scientific analysis!

Here we go!

The Democrats

The House Democratic Caucus has declined by one seat, going from 40 to 39. While six incumbent Democrats lost their re-election bid (Adam Lusker HD 2, Debbie Deere HD 40, Tim Hodge HD 72, Ed Trimmer HD 79, Steve Crum HD 98, and Eber Phelps HD 111), five new Democrats were elected making it almost a wash.

The six incumbent Democrats who lost were all defeated by Conservative Republicans.

The five new Democrats are Susan Ruiz in HD 23 who defeated Moderate Republican Linda Gallagher, Rui Xu in HD 25 who defeated Moderate Republican Melissa Rooker, Brandon Woodard in HD 30 who won an open seat where incumbent Randy Powell retired, Mike Amyx in HD 45 who will replace retiring Moderate Republican Tom Sloan, and Dave Benson in HD 48 who defeated Conservative incumbent Abraham Rafie.

Three of the new Democrats are replacing Moderate Republicans while two took seats from Conservatives.

The Moderate Republicans

Moderate Republicans picked up four seats currently held by Conservatives: Mark Samsel HD 5 replaces Conservative Kevin Jones who lost his primary for Congress, J.C. Moore HD 93 who defeated Conservative John Whitmer in the primary and went on to win the general, Nick Hoheisel HD 97 who will replace retiring Conservative Les Osterman, and Bill Pannbacker HD 106 who will replace retiring Conservative Clay Aurand.

But Moderate Republicans lost three seats they currently hold to Democrats in the general (Gallagher, Rooker, and Sloan) and an additional six Moderates will be replaced by Conservatives who defeated them in the primary. Those six are HD 8 where Chris Croft defeated Patty Markley, HD 28 where Kellie Warren defeated Joy Koesten, HD 39 where Owen Donohoe will replace retiring Shelee Brim, HD 74 where Steven Kelly defeated Don Schroeder, HD 75 where Will Carpenter defeated Mary Martha Good, HD 80 where Bill Rhiley defeated Anita Judd-Jenkins, HD 87 where Renee Erickson will replace retiring Roger Elliott, and HD 104 where Paul Waggoner defeated Steven Becker.

That’s a loss of 11 Moderate Republican seats offset by three Democrats resulting in Conservatives taking eight Moderate seats.

The Coalition

So with Democrats down by one seat and Moderate Republicans down by 11, the Conservatives will have a solid block that can control leadership elections and then the appointment of committee chairs and vice chairs.

In analyzing the Democrat/Moderate coalition that managed to reverse the Brownback tax disaster and restore a sound school finance system, we must look at a couple of factors. First, Democrats usually vote as a solid block in favor of public education which means there will almost certainly be 39 votes in support of public education issues. Sadly 39 votes cannot pass good legislation or defeat bad legislation. That means the Democrats must have the support of 24 Republicans to get to the necessary 63 vote majority.

Our legislative agenda is tied to the ability of Democrats and Moderate Republicans to work together to overcome the Conservative plurality. We believe that the new House will have just enough solid Moderate Republicans to reach the 63 vote threshold with the 39 Democrats. There are also an additional eight or nine Republicans who vote sometimes with the Conservatives and sometimes with the Moderates. If we can move some of those Republicans to support the coalition, we might be okay.

That’s where the cooperation comes in. With diminished numbers of Moderate Republicans and Democrats, it will be more important than ever that these two factions work together and cooperate in developing and passing good legislation that helps our schools and keeps our state moving forward.

In the Senate

While only one seat was up in the Senate- a special election to finish the term of SD 13 currently held by Richard Hilderbrand who was appointed to the seat when former senator Jake LaTurner became State Treasurer. Hilderbrand survived a challenge from Democrat Bryan Hoffman to retain the seat so the Senate remains 30 Republicans, nine Democrats, and one Independent.

But the actual membership and make-up of the Senate will be changing.

Democratic Senators Laura Kelly and Lynn Rogers were elected as Governor and Lieutenant Governor meaning new Senators will be selected to replace them. Republican Senator Vicki Schmidt was elected as Insurance Commissioner and a new Senator will be selected to replace her. These selections are made by the precinct committee chairs in the District representing the party of the departing Senator. So Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 18 will pick a Democratic replacement for Kelly, Democratic precinct committee chairs in SD 25 will pick a Democratic replacement for Rogers, and Republican precinct committee chairs in SD 20 will pick a Republican replacement for Schmidt.

There is no telling yet who their replacements might be. They could be chosen from out of the House meaning some new House members would then need to be selected in the same manner or they could select entirely new people. In the case of Vicki Schmidt, the selection depends on the ideology of the precinct committee chairs. If they are mostly conservatives then Moderate Republican Schmidt could be replaced by a Conservative.

There is also much speculation about two other Senators. Independent John Doll left the Republican Party to run as Greg Orman’s running mate. What will he decide to do? Will the Republicans welcome him back? Will he stay as an independent or will he become a Democrat? Will he decide to resign from the Senate? The other one is Republican Senator Barbara Bollier whose public endorsements of Democrats Laura Kelly for Governor and Sharice Davids for Congress brought the wrath of Senate Republican leadership down upon her. What will happen to her if she returns as a Republican? Will she be given the worst assignments or welcomed back? Might she become a Democrat or another Independent?

So the Senate is still up in the air as to how it will look come January.

We have a new Governor!

We are very excited that the election of Laura Kelly as Governor means the door has finally been shut on the extreme conservative administration of Sam Brownback.

Kelly and her Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers are staunch supporters of public schools and public school educators. Kelly has twice won the KNEA “Friend of Education Award” and Rogers has served as a member of the Wichita Public Schools School Board. Both are known for an ability to reach across the aisle to seek compromise for the good of the state.

We are confident that Kelly will do her utmost to include all legislative factions in the process of crafting good legislation to address the issues facing Kansans but also that she will be willing to use her veto pen should she be presented with legislation that turns back the progress made during the 2017 and 2018 legislative sessions.

We look forward to working with her throughout her time as Governor.

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