Revitalize the Kansas economy

While it will take time to recover from the wreckage of the Brownback years, this is also an era of unprecedented economic opportunity in Kansas.

In 2016 alone, there were 45,000 vacant jobs in our state. I will work to connect employers with qualified workers and ensure that all Kansans are prepared for the economy of today and tomorrow.

More than two-thirds of the jobs in Kansas will require some form of postsecondary education by 2020. This is why we have to get our K-12 students prepared for the changing job market as early as possible – from facilitating relationships between schools and employers to encouraging students to start developing a plan for life after high school long before graduation day. And we need to emphasize technical education – from training in high schools to an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at all levels of education.    

We also have to reduce the debt burden for our college graduates, which means the days of underfunding state universities and penalizing productive research institutions (major engines of economic activity) with disproportionate budget reductions must come to an end.

Education isn’t the only vital element of our economy that has been neglected over the past eight years. To pay for Brownback’s revenue-draining tax cuts, the state’s highway fund was plundered again and again. This meant deferred maintenance and delayed projects, which could have devastating consequences for our roads and highways. From the transportation of agricultural products to wind turbines to aircraft components, high-quality infrastructure is essential to sustain the Kansas economy.

Finally, in 2019, it’s unacceptable that many Kansans have inconsistent access to reliable broadband – and in many cases, no access at all. Broadband has become indispensable for everything from homework to searching for a job to monitoring crop and weather conditions, and we have a responsibility to make sure all Kansans have it when they need it.

Support Kansas workers

In the 2017 legislative session, I worked with my colleagues to finally give state employees a raise – many of whom hadn’t seen a salary increase in over a decade. Throughout the year, Kansans were constantly reminded of the importance of a fair wage for the people who protect us, care for our most vulnerable children, and keep the state government running smoothly.

When there was widespread unrest in our prison system, many of us immediately recognized that the staffing problems faced by correctional facilities such as El Dorado and Lansing were largely to blame. Pay for correctional officers in Kansas was far below the national average, and many officers were being forced to work 12-hour shifts for multiple days.

Kansas also faces difficulties in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers due to the fact that pay isn’t where it needs to be. It’s unacceptable that teachers are paid far less than professionals with comparable levels of education, and it’s even worse that Kansas is in the bottom 15 on this measure nationwide.

From the ever-increasing caseloads of our underpaid social workers to the meager pay for our teachers, Kansas simply has to do a better job of compensating its talented and dedicated workforce. And this applies to workers across industries and fields, which is why it’s long past time to ensure workers are receiving a fair wage in our state.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, families shouldn’t have to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. But to rent a two-bedroom home without surpassing this threshold, Kansans need to earn at least $15.59 per hour – more than twice the minimum wage. No Kansan should be forced to subsist on less than a living wage. I will continue to do everything I can to help hardworking Kansans earn enough to afford a place to live and other essentials like groceries and medical care.

I have spent my entire political life fighting for working Kansans, and I don’t intend to stop any time soon.

Ensure all Kansas schools have the resources they need

All children deserve the opportunity to cultivate their God-given talents – whether they attend school in Johnson County, western Kansas, or anywhere in between.

Kansans are tired of the political chaos that envelops their education system year after year. They recognize that it’s time to honor the Supreme Court’s ruling and give our dedicated teachers and students (as well as counselors and nurses, who are being asked to do more and more with less help) the resources they need. That’s why my education plan is built around four principles: adequacy, fairness, accountability, and sustainability.

Last year, the Republican leadership spent taxpayer funds on a study that told us what we already knew: Education is severely underfunded in our state. If we want to see improved academic outcomes, we have to start investing in our children again.

We have to treat all students fairly. Low-income districts often face unique challenges, such as less classroom resources and more kids with limited access to tools like broadband, test prep guides, tutors, etc. These districts also receive less property tax revenue, which perpetuates the disparities that already exist. We need to fight against the idea that a child’s zip code should determine whether he or she receives a proper education.

Education is the foundation of everything from civic engagement to economic productivity, and we have to make it a priority every year. It’s time to do right by our children, and we can only do that by funding our schools and getting out of the courts once and for all.

Expand Medicaid to 150,000 Kansans

I have spent years fighting for Medicaid expansion in the legislature. Ever since I was the first to introduce a bill that would have provided 150,000 Kansans with healthcare coverage, I have been one of the strongest advocates of expansion in the state. All Kansans deserve to see a doctor when they’re sick, which is why an overwhelming majority of the citizens of our state support the effort to expand Medicaid.

Kansas has forfeited more than 3 billion dollars in federal funds by refusing to expand Medicaid. That money belongs to Kansas taxpayers, and it was thrown away because of partisan politics.

By expanding KanCare, we wouldn’t just help 150,000 Kansans out of the “coverage gap” (when someone makes too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for a subsidy under the ACA) – we would also provide vital assistance to our struggling rural hospitals. According to a 2016 study, a third of these hospitals are at risk of closure. With less Medicaid reimbursements, many of our hospitals have repeatedly found themselves providing care they don’t get paid for – a major drain on their already-stretched resources.     

These are all reasons why I have been one of the strongest supporters of Medicaid expansion in the legislature for years – a fight I will continue to wage. 

Enact common sense gun safety

It’s horrifying that our children live in constant fear that gunshots will one day ring out in their hallways. It’s absurd and dangerous that Republican politicians think arming our teachers will make our schools safer. It’s time for common sense gun reform in Kansas.

Gun lobbyists and the politicians they influence have prevented this conversation from taking place for far too long. But like students across the country, I’ve had enough. That’s why I’m calling for the enactment of laws that will protect all of us from gun violence – a responsibility that the Republican legislature continues to ignore.

The protection of our children is job one, which is why I will continue to do everything I can to keep guns out of the classroom. Even well-trained sharpshooters often miss their targets in high-stress active shooter situations, which is all the more reason why it’s extremely irresponsible to give home ec teachers Glocks and expect them to become overnight police officers. That’s not their job. It’s shameful that some politicians want to place our kids in the middle of the crossfire and hope for the best.

I will also keep fighting to get guns off our college campuses. Although I led a successful legislative effort to keep guns out of state hospitals and mental health facilities in 2017, current law requires Kansas universities to put their students at grave risk by allowing guns on campus. Faculty and administrators across the state oppose this reckless infringement on their independence, and I stand with them.

There’s no reason for teenagers to own high-power firearms, which is why I support raising the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21. We also need to implement comprehensive background checks on all firearm purchases and close the gaping gun show loophole. People who have been convicted of domestic abuse or other violent crimes have no business owning a gun, and nobody should be able to purchase a bump stock that enables an AR-15 to fire like a fully automatic weapon.

Too many politicians pretend like common sense gun reform is beyond our reach. We can protect our children from gun violence.   

Improve our state’s foster care system

It’s impossible to read the headlines about the Department of Children and Families that have come out over the past few years with anything other than a feeling of anguish and outrage.

Governor Kelly has committed to improving this system and I support her efforts.

Over the past five years, the number of foster children in Kansas has risen by 33 percent, and this total is only expected to increase in the coming years. This means our hardworking, underappreciated social workers will see their caseloads surge even higher. We need to give these folks the resources they need to protect our children while simultaneously increasing the level of oversight to prevent future tragedies from taking place.

We also have to address the underlying causes of the foster care crisis in Kansas. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of Kansas kids removed from their homes due to alcohol and drug abuse increased dramatically – a fact that should remind us that our state ranks 16th in the country for the total number of opioid prescriptions. Kansas also has a woeful lack of mental health resources that could help families cope with addiction and behavioral issues. This must change.

Our most vulnerable children should always be our top priority, and I’m glad this is a priority of the Kelly administration.

Make KanCare work for all Kansans

From the very beginning, KanCare has been marred by problems. The rollout of the Kansas Eligibility Enforcement System (which was supposed to drastically increase efficiency in the process of applying for Medicaid) was a mess, and thousands of applications ended up backlogged. At one point in 2016, there were more than 10,000 unprocessed applications, and some of the waits lasted up to five months.

These delays hit our seniors particularly hard, as they’re disproportionately likely to rely on Medicaid. And many of them struggle to find care near the end of their lives when their applications are on hold. It’s horrendous that Kansas seniors often have to wait many months for health coverage when they should be spending that time with their loved ones.

And the problems don’t end with with the backlog. At the beginning of last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services determined that KanCare was out of compliance with federal statutes. The tracking system for quality and access was deemed insufficient, oversight of managed care organizations was lacking, there wasn’t enough cooperation between state agencies administering the program, and so on.

Kansans deserve better. We need to reform KanCare and get all Kansans access to the health coverage they need. I will also continue to fight for Kansans with disabilities who aren’t being served by KanCare – their families should be able to pursue long-term care solutions that don’t require them to go through the bureaucratic gauntlet of KanCare, and I’ve spent years fighting to give them that right.  

As your representative, I will work toward eliminating the backlog and preventing another one from accumulating, improving oversight of managed care providers, bringing agencies together to administer KanCare more efficiently, and of course, expanding Medicaid. This will reduce the strain on hospitals that have been providing far too much uncompensated care and provide 150,000 Kansans with the health coverage they need.

Defend women’s rights

My first elected position was on the Wichita City Council. At that time, the anti-choice movement was extremely active in Wichita. Then, and still today, I voted to defend a woman’s right to make personal healthcare decisions. I have never wavered on this position, even when faced with pressure.

There’s no doubt women’s reproductive rights are under attack in Kansas.

The women of Kansas have had enough of politicians making healthcare decisions for them. My record proves that I won’t stand in the way of a woman’s right to decide, with her doctor and family, the healthcare choices that are best for her.

Protect LGBT rights in Kansas

None of our citizens should be cast aside because of who they love.

Discrimination has no place in a state internationally known for being one of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for equality in the U.S.

From our status as a free state during the Civil War to Brown v. Board, equality is part of every Kansan’s DNA. But make no mistake: the fight continues. Ultra-conservatives continue to introduce ridiculous bills in the legislature that seek to discriminate.

I believe in equality and will work to protect the rights of all citizens.

Maintain a stable and sustainable water supply

All Kansans rely on a safe and secure water supply to meet their basic needs, drive economic activity, and improve their quality of life. That’s why the protection of our water resources is a top priority in our state.

Leveraged funds are available to implement the Kansas Water Vision, but it’s clear that Kansas must invest more in its water resources.

In western Kansas, we’ve made progress in slowing the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. Tools such as Local Enhanced Management Areas have provided agricultural producers the flexibility to manage their water usage and not be penalized. This repeal of the “use it or lose it” rule is a good first step, but much more will need to be done.

Meanwhile, innovations such as soil moisture probes and mobile drip irrigation show great promise in reducing water use, and the state will need to partner with private industry to make further progress toward widespread adoption of these technologies.

In central and eastern Kansas, water quality problems in our federal reservoirs must be addressed. State-owned water storage is being lost because of the amount of sediment filling the lakes. Nutrient-laden runoff provides the conditions necessary for harmful algal blooms that are toxic to humans and animals. These water quality problems affect many Kansans, and the state government needs to engage agricultural producers and local stakeholders to find solutions.

All Kansans understand the importance of water, and I will continue working hard to protect this life-sustaining resource for everyone in the state.

Support Kansas agriculture and our rural communities

Agriculture is a major pillar of the Kansas economy, and it’s integral to our way of life. I will always support farmers and ranchers, agricultural industries, and rural communities as they work to feed and fuel future generations of Kansans – as well as millions of other Americans and people around the world.

President Trump’s trade wars hurt Kansas – tariffs on commodities make our products less competitive in international markets and lead to much higher prices for consumers. We need to demonstrate that Kansas produces the safest and highest quality agricultural products in the world while fighting for trade policies that help Kansans instead of making their lives more difficult.

Technology is crucial to the future of agriculture in Kansas. Agricultural producers need digital infrastructure like broadband to take advantage of tools like precision agriculture, up-to-the-second weather information, access to online marketing, etc. Rural communities also need broadband to thrive. From access to educational and professional opportunities to the ability to stay connected with friends and family, reliable Internet access (or a lack thereof) can have a huge impact on a community’s quality of life.

Many agricultural producers in Kansas are developing direct marketing strategies that increase their profitability. Local farmers’ markets, food cooperatives, marketing campaigns such as “From the Land of Kansas,” and know-your-farmer initiatives allow farmers and ranchers to sell their products directly to consumers. This helps Kansans remain healthy while providing more income for agricultural producers. That’s why it’s essential increase the farm-to-table food supply in our state.

In a state where agriculture is so critical, we must protect and regenerate our natural resources – particularly the health of our soil. That’s why we need to provide education and incentives for agricultural producers to use practices that improve soil function. This will make our agricultural production more sustainable while providing many other benefits, such as cleaner air and water, better wildlife habitats, and the mitigation of climate change.

Kansas agriculture is one of our proudest traditions, and it will continue to be a powerful economic force. I will continue to celebrate that tradition and position our agricultural sector and rural communities to succeed in the 21st century.