House Speaker Ron Ryckman denounces governor on tax, spending, policy fronts

Kansas Reflector
Kansas Reflector

TOPEKA — Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman’s rebuttal to the Democratic governor’s speech Tuesday highlighted the quest of Republicans to reduce the state’s sales tax rate, save rather than spend one-time federal stimulus funding and create a rainy-day fund to help avoid tax hikes during economic fluctuations.

Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, said Kansans were weary of Gov. Laura Kelly’s inability to deliver meaningful tax cuts, savvy economic reform and consistent, steady leadership. Kelly addressed a joint session of the Kansas Legislature in the annual State of the State presentation.

“ Many Kansans say they have grown tired of broken promises,” Ryckman said. “Listening to your concerns, your priorities, Republicans are focused on a different approach.”

He said the GOP-led Legislature would use the state’s tax revenue growth to responsibly reduce the 6.5% sales tax rate applicable to all purchases. The governor proposed elimination of the state’s sales tax on groceries.

The state government also needs to build a financial reserve fund to nimbly respond to inevitable revenue shortfalls, Ryckman said. The fund can help the state avoid tax hikes, he said.

Ryckman said the Legislature should invest federal stimulus funding in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which has a long-term unfunded liability of $5 billion.

“ Stabilize the KPERS retirement fund so that our teachers, our firefighters and other public employees know it will be there for them when they need it,” Ryckman said.

Ryckman said the state had a duty to “preserve the Kansas culture of life so that common sense protections like parental notification  and safety requirements remain in place” to control access to abortion. He objected to Kelly’s opposition to proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution — on statewide ballots in August — declaring the Bill of Rights didn’t guarantee women bodily autonomy and a right to abortion.

He said Kansas government should improve delivery of mental health services so veterans, children and families. Kansas lawmakers must work to protect access to safe, reliable water for agricultural, industrial and residential consumption while also addressing contamination issues and declines in water supplies, the House speaker said.

Republicans, he said, pledged to keep the American dream alive in Kansas t hrough clever economic decisions, lasting tax cuts instead of one-time handouts, and steady leadership .

He referenced Kelly’s veto of income, property and sales tax legislation approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and her recommendation for a $250 tax rebate to more than 1 million Kansas taxpayers at a cost of $455 million.

In addition, Ryckman was critical of Kelly’s decision at outset of the pandemic to temporarily close some businesses, impose mask and social distancing mandates. He also faulted her for failing to thwart unemployment insurance fraud.

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