GREG LOWER

Local legislators join their colleagues in returning to the Kansas statehouse Monday for the start of the new session.

Both Sen. Dan Goddard (R-Parsons) and Rep. Kent Thompson (R-Iola) say they expect the expansion of Medicaid to be the main topic when the Legislature opens.

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly and GOP Majority Leader Sen. Jim Denning outlined a bipartisan plan for the issue Thursday. Thompson said that in principle, the plan irons out the move that will be a positive for rural Kansas.

Goddard said debate over and a vote on the plan will start in the Senate before going to the House.

“That may take a while,” he said.

He said a majority of people favor the expansion.

“It is going to happen,” he said. The issue depends on the form it takes after it gets through the process.

Next up on Goddard’s list is a transportation plan. He said that the Kansas Department of Transportation held meetings round the state last summer, which tallied up $18 billion in requests.

Goddard said the Legislature cannot handle that amount, which will mean more consultations. Projects left over from the T-Works plan will have priority, including a project to improve US-75 between Caney and the Oklahoma state line.

Goddard said KDOT currently has projects at the US-160/US-169 junction and the resurfacing of US-169, both in Montgomery County, and some patchwork in Neosho County. A traffic circle project near Altamont is funded by the federal government, not the state, he said.

Goddard serves on the Tax Committee and said there will be property tax proposals, along with possibly dealing with the tax lid now in place. He also serves on the Ways and Means Committee, which will deal with the 2021 budget. Last year the Legislature passed a one-year budget instead of the typical two-year plan.

Something else the governor has proposed is a plan to re-amortize the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Goddard said that plan will push the “get well” for the system to the 2040s from 2033.

Goddard said he will not vote for re-amortization.

Thompson said he does not have particular goals for the session, but plans to keep his eyes open and look for the best policy. He said sometimes a seemingly-mundane issue will turn explosive.

“There’s an element of surprise, for sure,” he said.

Deliberations of the House, Senate and committees are live-streamed online at the Kansas Legislature website, http://www.kslegislature.org

Goddard added that since 2020 is an election year, he encourages people to pay attention to the issues and to register and exercise their right to vote.

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