In the seven weeks since the inauguration, my administration has been hard at work.
I presented a plan that balanced the budget, prioritized schools, paved the way for Medicaid expansion, invested in children and families, enhanced public safety, and left the largest ending balance in two decades.
My budget was structured to stabilize our fragile state finances and pay down the record amount of debt racked up during the last eight years. Not only that, my bipartisan Cabinet hit the ground running with the long, hard task of rebuilding our state agencies.
Together, we’ve increased transparency by sharing, honestly, the severity of the problems we uncovered at the Department of Corrections, Department for Children and Families, and Department of Revenue. We’ve shed light on the number of no-bid contracts hidden throughout state government.
Contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, that didn’t go through the proper channels, and may not be in the best interests of Kansans.
My team at the Department of Administration is currently in the process of developing new, stricter standards of ethics and accountability in the procurement process. We look forward to announcing that plan once it is finalized in the coming weeks. And we are just getting started. We understand the urgency of our work. Our work touches the lives of Kansans every day and we take that very seriously.
Unfortunately, I’m disappointed that the Legislature has yet to act with the same level of urgency, especially given the breadth of our challenges and the deadlines we face.
As a former legislator, I have deep respect for the legislative process. It is not unusual for many of the biggest issues of the session to be resolved later in the session. This is not a race. But the deadlines are real. And they are right around the corner. It’s frustrating that little progress has been made on the most critical issue of the session: school funding.
After seven weeks, I worry that some legislative leaders have allowed serious deliberations and the development of policy alternatives give way to partisan games and unnecessary name calling.
In 2011, the first year of the previous administration, the Legislature debated and acted on 99 more pieces of legislation by this point in the session than they have this year. At this moment, halfway into the session, just one piece of legislation has reached my desk.
I’ve met with leadership. I’ve met with lawmakers of both parties. And my door continues to be open. I’m eager to find bipartisan consensus when lawmakers return for the second half of the session. I’m looking forward to seeing their plans so we can begin negotiations.
On election night in November, I was hopeful that lawmakers could put our differences aside and work together on behalf of Kansas families. Today, I choose to remain hopeful. I am ready to find middle ground.
I was elected to rebuild our state following years of mismanagement and failed policy. I offered a plan to do just that. I hope lawmakers will join me in earnest when they return.
In the meantime, my team will continue to do our work – cleaning up messes and charting a more responsible path forward. We will continue to put the best interest of families first. We will prioritize schools, health care, roads, and job growth.