Gov. Laura Kelly welcomed budget-minded legislators back to the Capitol by submitting Tuesday an amended plan dedicating $35 million to upgrading corrections officer salaries, improving health care of inmates and transferring men and women out of state prisons operating above capacity.
"Our prisons were overcrowded, understaffed and in crisis. I’ve added significantly more funding to start addressing these issues immediately," Kelly said.
She urged the 2019 Legislature, which formally returns to the Capitol on Wednesday, to allocate $16.4 million to purchase contract bed space for male inmates to free state correctional officers for redeployment in the crowded prison system. In February, the governor declared an emergency at El Dorado Correctional Facility because of chronic personnel shortages.
"Corrections officers and staff have stood strong on the front lines in this crisis, but we must give them the support and compensation they deserve," Kelly said. "Help is on the way."
The House and Senate budget committees were asked by Kelly to provide $3 million necessary to move 120 women at Topeka Correctional Facility to a state juvenile corrections complex, also in Topeka. TCF's capacity is 903, but it has been operating with about 925 inmates. The facility is projected to need space for 1,018 women inmates by next year.
In addition, the governor added $4.5 million to broaden medical treatment to inmates with Hepatitis C. The Kansas Department of Corrections budgeted $1.5 million for treatment, and the Legislature was considering a bill doubling the amount.
Kelly's budget memorandum to the Legislature earmarked $17.8 million to repay the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for apparent miscalculations during a five-year period by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment of federal bonus payments to the state. The federal agency expects full payment within 30 days regardless of whether Kansas appeals.
She recommended the Legislature appropriate $5.3 million to resolve a lawsuit resulting from the Legislature's improper removal of cash from the Kansas Insurance Department in 2018 and 2019.
The Senate and House budget committees met in the statehouse to review updated tax revenue estimates and consider how much spending could realistically be handled over the next couple years.
The wrap-up session is expected to delve into the budget, as well as taxes, education, abortion and Medicaid expansion.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, and House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, objected to the governor's veto of a bill crafted to avoid taxing multinational corporations bringing foreign income to Kansas. It also would have lowered the state sales tax on food and enabled wealthy individuals to take a higher standard deduction on federal income tax forms, but continue taking advantage of itemization on state tax forms.
The Legislature missed an opportunity to vote on an override, but could develop an alternative bill.
Anti-abortion lawmakers are expected to seek an override of Kelly's veto of a bill mandating that health clinics inform women the process of a pill-induced abortion might be halted. In addition, lawmakers could debate an amendment to the Kansas Constitution in response to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling that a woman's right to abortion was protected.
Justices of the state Supreme Court scheduled oral argument May 9 on the new law raising state investment in K-12 public schools by $90 million annually.