Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly starts another four years asking Republicans to work with her

TOPEKA, Kansas Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly called for bipartisanship during her inaugural address Monday amid strong Republican opposition in the Kansas State House.

Recalling the hardships and successes of her first term, Kelly asked Kansas politicians to show courtesy and kindness. She said the state can avoid destructive and polarized policies that pit Democrats and Republicans against each other at the national level.

Kelly said political leaders were able to work together in Kansas during her first term to provide stability to a state government that was left with budgetary problems due to her Republican predecessors Sam Brownback and Jeff Collier. The state currently runs a budget surplus of $2 billion.

“We got our state back on track,” Kelly said, “and we did it by working together—as one Kansas. Not Western, not Eastern, not Democrat, not Republican.”

Kelly did not announce any specific political plans, but said her second term will focus on making Kansas the best place in America to raise a family.

But whether the state’s politicians will work together and implement the Kelly program will largely depend on Republican legislators. The Republican Party still has an overwhelming majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, due in part to deepening political divide between urban and rural parts of the state.

This means that Republican lawmakers will be able to ignore Kelly’s proposals to implement their own plans and override her veto without bipartisan support.

Stephen Koranda


Kansas News Service

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly urged Kansas politicians to be civil and kind and not to pit Republicans against Democrats.

Kelly won re-election against Republican nominee Derek Schmidt, the outgoing Attorney General, presenting himself as a moderate businessman. That image was helped by the state’s record low unemployment rate and her administration built a $4 billion plant that promises to create 4,000 new jobs in the state.

Kelly also called for new tax cuts, including accelerating the phase-out of the state food sales tax. She proposed this and other cuts to secure $500 million in tax credits over the next three years.

But Republican leaders in the Statehouse rarely backed her plans. They may seek various cuts, such as income tax cuts.

Republican Senate Vice President Rick Wilborn recently said that with new leadership in the House of Representatives, leading Republicans in the Legislature have not yet had a chance to discuss this year’s tax strategy. But he knows tax cuts will be a priority.

“Taxes will be a very current issue with the surplus we have in the bank because of the good strong economy in Kansas,” Wilborn said.

Dylan Lysen reports on politics for the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanLysen or email him at dlysen (at) kcur (dot) org.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration between KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW, and High Plains Public Radio dedicated to health, social determinants of health, and their relationship to public policy.

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