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The Latest: Kelly pitch on Medicaid doesn’t move GOP leaders

January 17, 2019

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s State of the State address (all times local):

8:25 p.m.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s pitch to expand Medicaid in Kansas to cover up to 150,000 more people has not moved Republican leaders opposed to the idea.

Kelly spent nearly six minutes of her 37-minute State of the State address Wednesday night attempting to make a case that expanding Medicaid will help Kansas families and rural hospitals and communities. She promised to have a plan drafted before the end of January.

But top Republican lawmakers said nothing in her speech made them rethink their opposition. They continue to view Medicaid expansion as too costly to the state, even after the federal government covers the bulk of the expense.

Past GOP governors opposed expansion.

About three dozen pro-expansion demonstrators stood outside the House chamber before Kelly’s speech, waving signs.

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8:05 p.m.

Top Republicans in the Kansas Legislature are suggesting that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly will break a campaign promise not to raise taxes if she doesn’t buy into a GOP tax relief plan.

GOP legislative leaders said Wednesday night after Kelly’s State of the State address that they want to hold Kelly to her promise not to raise taxes.

But they also said that includes adjusting state income tax laws so that Kansas residents aren’t forced to pay more to the state because of federal tax changes at the end of 2017.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr. said inaction means some Kansans will pay more.

Kelly didn’t mention the issue in her address. She said afterward that she wouldn’t say whether she’d veto a tax bill until she saw the legislation.

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7 p.m.

Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle contends Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is setting a course for the state that will “squander our fiscal recovery.”

The conservative Wichita Republican gave the official GOP response Wednesday to Kelly’s first State of the State address.

Kelly’s priorities include boosting spending on public schools and expanding the state’s Medicaid health coverage for the needy. She is on a collision course with top Republicans because they want to cut state income taxes.

Wagle said the GOP wants to cut taxes so that some Kansas residents don’t pay more to the state because of federal income tax changes at the end of 2017.

She also said Kelly wants to merely “surrender to the edicts” of the Kansas Supreme Court in an education funding lawsuit.

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6:30 p.m.

New Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is telling Kansas legislators that the state faces an emergency in its child welfare system and is “completely unprepared” for the next national economic downturn.

Kelly outlined an agenda Wednesday evening for the Republican-dominated Legislature that includes increased spending on public schools and expanding the state’s Medicaid health coverage for the needy.

She also told lawmakers that she will honor her pledge to balance the budget without raising taxes.

Her first State of the State address sets up a clash with top Republicans. She did not mention their top priority, an income tax cut.

Kelly’s tough tone was the most notable element of her address to a joint session of the House and Senate. She declared, “I was elected to rebuild our state.”

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6 a.m.

New Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly is expected to make a pitch to the Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature for boosting spending on public schools and expanding Medicaid.

Kelly was scheduled to deliver her first State of the State address Wednesday evening to a joint session of the Legislature. She took office Monday.

The governor and fellow Democrats want to move quickly to boost education funding.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled last year that a new law increasing aid to public schools wasn’t enough because it didn’t account for years of inflation. The state school board has proposed phasing in a $364 million increase over four years.

Kelly also wants to expand the state’s Medicaid health coverage for the needy.

Republican leaders have been skeptical that the state can afford the two initiatives.

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