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.

Unlike the current administration, I’m actually listening to them.

Over the past four years, Kansas has forfeited billions of dollars in federal funds by refusing to expand Medicaid. That money belongs to Kansas taxpayers, and it was thrown away because Sam Brownback, Jeff Colyer, and conservative lawmakers were afraid of being associated with the Affordable Care Act. That’s not leadership – it’s the elevation of petty politics over the healthcare of thousands of Kansans.   

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 as governor.   

Ensure that 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.

This 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. As governor, I will 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.

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. As governor, 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 2018, 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 I will make sure that all Kansans have it when they need it.

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 politicians like Kris Kobach and Jeff Colyer 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 Brownback and Colyer administrations have repeatedly ignored.

As governor of Kansas, the protection of our children will be job one. This means I will 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. Unlike Kobach, I won’t 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 last year, 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, and that’s what I’ll do as your governor.  

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.

From the gruesome death of Adrian Jones to the news that Kansas children have been sleeping in contractors’ offices to the terrible realization that DCF lost track of more than 70 foster children, the Brownback/Colyer administrations’ record on child welfare in Kansas has been dismal. It’s time to start protecting our children again.

I have a long record of fighting to hold DCF accountable for the deaths of children in state custody. I repeatedly went before the Legislative Post Audit Committee to demand an audit of DCF, and when it was released, the results were deeply disturbing. From the failure to implement eight of nine protective recommendations to evidence that mandatory in-person visits weren’t taking place, Kansans learned about one shocking revelation after another.

This grim status quo needs to change immediately. The state government has no more important responsibility than the protection of our children, and it’s disgraceful that the Brownback/Colyer administrations allowed the situation to become this dire.

Over the past five years, the number 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 will always be my top priority as governor, which is why I’ll get to work overhauling our foster care system on day one.

 

Make KanCare work for all Kansans

 

Our governor wants you to think KanCare – the state’s privatized Medicaid program – has been a tremendous success. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

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 shameful that Kansas seniors often have to wait many months for 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. As governor, I will work with the legislature 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 trying to give them that right.  

 

As governor, I’ll 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 health coverage.

 

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. Two months ago, Gov. Jeff Colyer called for a constitutional amendment that would permanently restrict reproductive rights in Kansas. In 2016, Sam Brownback tried to prevent Medicaid funds from being used for women’s health, including breast exams and birth control provided by Planned Parenthood.

 

After the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state government couldn’t arbitrarily block Medicaid funds from going to Planned Parenthood, Colyer announced a plan to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

Meanwhile, Kris Kobach (one of the leading Republican candidates for governor) constantly expresses his fervent opposition to choice and women’s healthcare in Kansas. Just take a look at what The Wichita Eagle reported about a Kobach event in 2015: “He compares Planned Parenthood to the infamous Nazi doctor Josef Mengele and blasts President Obama for opposing congressional Republicans’ efforts to defund it.”

 

The women of Kansas have had enough of politicians who treat them like second-class citizens. My record proves that I won’t stand in the way of a woman’s right to decide, with her doctor and family, what is in her best interest.

 

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. As your governor, I will do everything I can to raise the minimum wage to a level that allows Kansans to find a place to live and afford other essentials like groceries and medical care.

 

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

 

Protect LGBT rights in Kansas

 

I’ve said it again and again on the campaign trail: as governor, I won’t allow any of our citizens to be cast aside because of who they love. That’s why one of my first actions as governor will be the reinstatement of the executive order that bans discrimination against LGBT employees in state government.

 

It’s outrageous that, with the stroke of his pen, Sam Brownback decided to make discrimination legal in Kansas. And despite his empty promise of a “new day in Kansas,” Jeff Colyer doesn’t have the political courage to right this wrong. Our state deserves a leader who will defend the rights of all Kansans. Discrimination has no place in a state internationally known for being one of the most important battlegrounds in the fight for racial 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.

 

For example, despite the claims that DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel (who was appointed by Colyer) would be a more forward-looking leader who would curb the agency’s discriminatory practices, the agency now supports legislation that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT couples who want to start families in Kansas.

 

What sort of message would we send LGBT Kansans with such a cruel and unnecessary law? What would we be saying about our state’s priorities to the rest of the country?  

 

Like Colyer’s refusal to protect LGBT state employees from discrimination, Meier-Hummel’s support for such a prejudiced law is indefensible. Kansas clearly has a lot of work to do when it comes to protecting the rights of all its citizens, and I won’t waste a moment before getting started.

 

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 will be one of my main priorities as governor.   

 

Any work done by Sam Brownback and Jeff Colyer on water sustainability was completely negated by their disastrous tax experiment. Action plans were created by local stakeholders across Kansas, but they were provided with no funding and rendered ineffective. 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, progress has been made in slowing the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer. Tools such as Local Enhanced Management Areas (LEMAs) 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 I’ll engage agricultural producers and local stakeholders to find solutions.

 

All Kansans understand the importance water, and I will work 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. As governor, I will 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. My administration will work at home and abroad to demonstrate that Kansas produces the safest and highest quality agricultural products in the world. I’ll also fight 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 I will work to increase 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. My administration will 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 an essential economic force. As governor, I will celebrate that tradition and position our agricultural sector and rural communities to succeed in the 21st century.