Kansas House Democrats Unveil 2008 Legislative Focus

Leaders of the Kansas House Democratic Caucus unveiled their legislative agenda for the 2008 session Thursday.

Issues addressed in the agenda include education, health care and affordable housing.

"Expanding opportunities while demonstrating responsibility is the prevailing theme of our 2008 agenda," said House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, Greensburg.

"House Democrats are committed to providing opportunities for everyday people who contribute and invest in Kansas: families who lost their homes in 2007, children whose success depends on an exceptional education and responsible workers who deserve a living wage and affordable health care. These people are counting on us in 2008 and we have a responsibility to offer them the help they need," McKinney said.

2008 Democratic Legislative Agenda
Expanding Health Care
House Democrats believe hardworking Kansans deserve affordable, quality health care. The recommendations of the Kansas Health Policy Authority will begin a long overdue discussion about health care access and affordability throughout the state. House Democrats look to discuss KHPA recommendations. Additional opportunities include:
-Expand tax incentives for small business that provide health insurance to employees
Utilitize purchasing power of the state employee health plan by qualified small businesses, school districts and local units of government
-Support continued efforts by the Sebelius administration and the Health Policy Authority to reduce bureaucracy within the health care system
-Reduce waiting lists to waiver programs for home and community based services and provide additional funding for caregivers of seniors and disabled

Keeping Our Promise to Schoolchildren
Providing high caliber education for Kansas children has always been a focus of House Democrats. The caucus supports the following opportunities to further improve Kansas schools:
-Secure a fourth year of the current school finance plan
-Implement all day kindergarten
-Enhance teacher salaries to recruit and retain more high-quality teachers to the profession
-Provide alternative licensure mechanisms for teachers which do not lower standards
-Guarantee continued accountability for state education dollars

Achieving Energy for the Future
Kansas must seize the opportunity to become a national leader in the production of renewable energy. This will help the United States become energy independent and boost Kansas economy. House Democrats believe the following steps will move Kansas forward in the area of energy production:
-Endorse Governor Sebelius goal that 10 percent of Kansas energy come from renewable sources by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020
-Allow Kansas consumers to receive full credit for producing solar energy
-Provide tax credits to landlords who make rental properties more energy efficient
-Expand broadband for rural Kansas

Stabilizing Housing Costs
After devastating natural disasters in 2007, Kansas communities require housing assistance. A comprehensive housing plan also helps our communities attract and retain quality employers. House Democrats support the following efforts to increase state-funded housing assistance:
-Establish a community grant program for affordable housing
-Work with vocational school programs, prison training programs (such as the program at Hutchinson Correctional Facility) and union apprentice programs to rehabilitate and build homes in areas where affordable housing needs are most pressing

Helping Working Families
State lawmakers have a responsibility to demonstrate their commitment to Kansas workers. Currently, 19,000 Kansans work below minimum wage. These Kansans struggle to provide food and shelter for their families, making this a moral issue. House Democrats feel a responsibility to advance the following:
-Increase Kansas minimum wage - the lowest in the country - to equal federal law
-Guarantee that Kansas workers receive fair and just compensation for injuries incurred at work

Reducing Financial Burdens
House Democrats are focused on providing tax relief to those who need it most: vulnerable seniors, working families and small businesses. The caucus has consistently fought to ensure that any tax cuts passed were not only fair and balanced, but also fiscally responsible. House Democrats will continue these efforts through the following initiatives:
-Offer property tax rellief for low-income seniors
-Close corporate tax loopholes that benefit out-of-state corporations

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