The Kansas Legislature convenes for the 2024 session on Monday, with some big ticket issues likely to be front and center once again.
On KMAN’s In Focus Friday, we visited with area legislators, including 66th District Rep. Sydney Carlin (D-Manhattan), 67th District Rep. Mike Dodson (R-Manhattan) and State Sen. Usha Reddi (D-Manhattan).
Medicaid Expansion
Rep. Sydney Carlin (D-Manhattan).

At the top of that list is whether or not to expand Medicaid in Kansas, something that has had growing support on both sides of the political aisle. State Rep. Sydney Carlin says the governor’s proposal does not allow for taxpayer funded abortions, but does include a federal provision that would prevail on that.

“Federal law does allow for payment for rape, incest, life of the mother and emergency abortions and there is a work verification as well. You have to be working, you have to verify that you’re working and your income has to be verified. If they’re making $7.25 an hour, how hard is that to verify?” Carlin said.
State Senator Usha Reddi says expanding Medicaid would take care some of the prevention needs for lower income residents and help many hospitals which end up writing off a lot of debt.
“If it was on a ballot initiative and people had to vote on it, I think it would pass 75%, maybe even closer to 80 or 90% because people know the importance of it. Gov. (Laura) Kelly has done an extraordinary job of trying to make sure we get businesses, nonprofits, agriculture, chambers on board with this,” she said.
State Rep. Mike Dodson says it will likely be on individual communities to change the minds of GOP leadership in Topeka, which has not even entertained a debate on Medicaid expansion.
67th District Rep. Mike Dodson (R-Manhattan)

“You may have noticed that Russell, Kansas and I think Emporia, I’m not sure who the other one was, but at least two have made referendums at the city level to support Medicaid expansion. So when things like that begin to happen, the pressure builds, and all that helps,” he said.

The State of Kansas has over $2 billion in surplus funds to play with and lawmakers will have about four months to determine what kind of meaningful tax relief, if any, can be agreed upon. Top Kansas Republicans have pushed for a flat tax proposal for all Kansans. Rep. Dodson says a flat tax doesn’t provide a straight outcome for people on either end of the earning spectrum.
“So the flat tax argument on that is pretty shallow, but I still think that we’ll see another attempt to bundle a lot of things together, some of which we don’t like at all,” he said.
Rep. Carlin says lawmakers need to keep in mind all the ways people are affected by their tax paying, including health insurance, childcare benefits.
“People need to be able to make $50,000 in today’s market, without paying taxes. I’m not going to be writing the bill, but I’m going to be voting on it and studying it. I do want to give tax relief. It is insane for us not to give some tax relief. But it needs to get right to the people and it needs to get to everybody,” she said.
22nd District State Sen. Usha Reddi (D-Manhattan)

Sen. Reddi says she believes there could be conversations to exempt state sales tax on other things besides food, or for veterans or social security.

“We will see tax relief for our residents, I do know that much. In what form is it going to happen? I’m unsure right now, but I think we are all going to be involved in all of those discussions,” she said.
The Manhattan area delegation says they also expect continued conversations in Topeka surrounding the full funding of K-12 special education, an issue that public school leaders across the state have been lobbying for amid growing challenges with staffing and recruiting. Conversations surrounding higher education funding will also be on that list, including exploring ways to better support community and technical colleges in the state.
The 2024 session begins Monday in Topeka. Gov. Laura Kelly will deliver her State of the State address Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

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