Governor Kelly releases new budget plan

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — As promised in her State of the State address, Governor Kelly’s 2020 and 2021 fiscal year budget was released on Thursday morning. The Governor said her budget is a plan to restore fiscal responsibility through finding financial balance and paying off debts.

The plan would get rid of an estimated 600 million dollars in debt owed by the state of Kansas. This includes one of the largest debts owed to the KPERS fund, due to previously missed payments by the state. The Governor’s budget allocates $268.4 million to pay off the KPERS debt. This is estimated to save $209 million in interest and $25.8 million in annual payments. The payments would be a reduced amount than currently being required and would spread those payments out across 25 years.

Representative Brett Parker is a teacher and will rely on KPERS for retirement just like thousands of other Kansans. He says this is the best option.

“Far better to have it planned out in manageable amounts so that we can keep the promise. There’s no one looking at payments being skipped in the future,” said Representative Parker. “It also lets us weather a downturn in the economy if we need to and be able to keep making those payments.”

This will have no impact to KPERS members’ benefits.

“There is a lot of money in the KPERS fund. No one who is currently receiving the benefits is in any danger. No one is in danger of losing them for the long-term,” added Parker.

The budget also includes tax relief measures. A $53.2 million food sales tax relief credit will be available to low-income Kansans. People that qualify can fill out a form in order to be refunded a set amount on groceries. Many lawmakers felt the food sales tax should have been cut for everyone. There is also $54 million allocated for property tax relief. That money will be spread out across the state to lower property taxes. Some lawmakers don’t feel this is enough.

“Are people going to notice that? I would say probably not,” said Rep. Troy Waymaster, (R) Bunker Hill.

But the Kansas Director of the Budget, Larry Campbell, says it’s a start.

“You start somewhere. This is responsible,” Campbell said. “It’s something that can be done now and it’s responsible.”

The budget also includes $17.5 million in funding for Medicaid Expansion in fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2022, that funding will increase to $35 million.

Other items included in the budget are school funding, public safety — including a new helicopter and $21.8 million to services in the new Department of Human Services.

“I think the goal, with this governor, is to be responsible and to do what’s right,” said Budget Director Campbell.

You can see the full budget here.

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