House Speaker Ron Ryckman said in the Republican response to the governor's annual speech to legislators Wednesday time had come to move beyond court mandates and political schemes that undermine stability of the state government's budget.
Ryckman, who delivered the rebuttal to the annual State of the State speech from Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, said Kansas needed to embrace fiscally sound budgeting and refuse calls to expand government.
"The bottom line is this: The state cannot continue to spend more than it brings in," Ryckman said. "Kansans are tired of budget gimmicks that simply kick the can down the road, tired of courtroom battles that divert funding away from critical services like mental health and foster care and tired of government intrusion that makes it harder for job creators and working Kansans to get ahead."
He said Republican legislators led the state out of a budget hole to produce a surplus this year of $340 million. Kelly's agenda is likely to swiftly erode the cushion and invite financial ruin, he said.
"Rushing to spend millions of dollars on new programs will do more than just grow government," Ryckman said. "Putting new programs ahead of fully funding our existing services will lead to calls for Kansans to send more of their hard-earned money to Topeka, leaving behind less and less for our families and our communities.
"In the coming days, we will roll out specific solutions to address sustainable rural health care, rural housing and workforce development."
Ryckman, an Olathe Republican elected to the House in 2012, said he was frustrated by Kansas Supreme Court decisions requiring infusion of billions of dollars in K-12 public education. He has been critical of Kelly's plan to expand Medicaid to low-income Kansans. He faulted the governor's proposal to refinance debt of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System because it would add more than $4 billion to the system's obligations.
He said Kelly last year recommended using KPERS like a "credit card" despite denouncing the concept as a member of the Kansas Senate. Before the session started Monday, Kelly again asked lawmakers to consider refinancing KPERS.
"Another Band-Aid approach that would amass a mountain of debt for our children and grandchildren to pay off in order to generate quick cash for her spending," Ryckman said. "Last year, House Republicans, joined by our Democratic colleagues, voted down the governor’s credit-card tactic, and we will vote it down again."
In the State of the State speech, Kelly said her priorities were expansion of Medicaid eligibility, development of a new state transportation program and adoption of modest property and sales tax reforms. She vowed to veto tax legislation that jeopardized stability of the state's budget. During the 2019 session, Kelly rejected two large tax-cut bills approved by Republicans.
Ryckman said he was committed to promoting civil discourse at the Capitol. Dialogue needs to be less about election-year posturing and more about solutions to policy challenges, he said.
"At a time when social media pot shots and personal attacks have become the norm, we seek to set the tone for civil discourse so that all Kansans have a voice, not just those who yell the loudest or can pad the pockets of politicians," he said.