Gov. Jeff Colyer signed the Kansas budget into law Tuesday, but in the process he knocked out a provision aimed at curbing his administration’s revamp of the state’s privatized Medicaid program, KanCare.
Colyer and his predecessor, former-Gov. Sam Brownback, have been working to overhaul KanCare and get federal permission to extend the program for several more years.
Kansas lawmakers wanted to block Colyer from adding restrictions, like work requirements for some KanCare recipients. The budget provision Colyer vetoed would have unfunded the Medicaid program if the governor made changes to it, a move the administration said would imperil the state health agency.
“We think it’s probably bad policy to hold the entire agency budget hostage, especially when you’ve got vulnerable people who really depend on that agency,” said Kendall Marr, spokesman for the governor.
Another provision that’s still intact says Colyer will have to get approval from lawmakers to make changes to the Medicaid program.
The budget overall marks a sharp departure from recent years, where Kansas faced revenue troubles and lean spending plans. Lawmakers raised taxes last year by reversing many of the 2012 tax cuts Colyer’s predecessor had pushed for.
The budget includes spending for K-through-12 schools that ramps up to an increase of almost $530 million in five years. The state Supreme Court will hear arguments next week about whether that’s adequate. Kansas has been fighting the latest lawsuit over school funding for seven years.
With ceremonial budget-signing stops at state universities Tuesday, Colyer touted an $18 million boost for higher education. The budget reverses some of the cuts that universities had to absorb in 2016.
“We owe it to our students to give them the best possible chance to succeed. I believe that this is a very important step,” Colyer said during his stop at Pittsburg State University.
The budget also includes funding for state employee raises.
Stephen Koranda is Statehouse reporter for Kansas Public Radio, a partner in the Kansas News Service. Follow him on Twitter @kprkoranda. Fred Fletcher-Fierro at KRPS in Pittsburg, Kansas contributed to this report.
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