Medicaid, marijuana top Kansas governor's 2020 priorities

Published: Jan. 2, 2020 at 5:14 PM CST
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Expanding Medicaid and legalizing medical marijuana are two issues Gov. Laura Kelly plans to advocate for during the upcoming legislative session.

While she counts passage of a school finance bill as her top success from her first year in office, Medicaid expansion remains at the top of her to-do list for year two.

"This is the year we're gonna get it done," she told 13 NEWS Thursday in an interview in her Statehouse office. "The one good thing about not having expanded it before is that we can expand it now learning from other states and get it right the first time."

Kelly says she believed Medicaid expansion also will help curb opioid abuse - even more so if the state legalizes medical marijuana.

"I have always said that I want it well regulated so that it's controlled and it doesn't that it's not the first step to legalization of marijuana. I don't want that. I want it to be seen as a pharmaceutical," Kelly said.

As for expanding legalization to recreational use, Kelly said she would not advance the cause. However, if it was what the public wanted and lawmakers and lawmakers sent her a bill, "Would I sign it? Probably," Kelly said.

Kelly says she is fine-tuning the budget proposal she will submit to lawmakers later this month. She said it includes money for Medicaid expansion, plus keeps the state's commitment to schools, and invests in infrastructure, child welfare, and mental health.

She believes the state can afford it.

"One thing we learned over the summer when the Medicaid Expansion Council was meeting is that this doesn't cost the state nearly as much as everybody's been putting out there because we'll also have a number of cost savings," she said. "Then the other thing we found out from other states is that there are actually economic advantages. You will see the economy grow. "

Kelly said people should not expect any major cuts in her spending plan.

"Rather than cuts, there may have been some re-appropriation of funding that was being spent on one program that wasn't giving us a return on investment, and then invested in one that we have more confidence will provide a return on our investment. You're going to see that probably more in the Department of Commerce than anyplace else," she said.

The 2020 legislative session convenes Jan. 13.