College tuition freeze, tax cuts and more: Inside Gov. Kelly’s spending plan

Capitol Bureau

Gov. Kelly walks into Kansas House chamber to deliver the annual State of the State address on Tuesday, January 11, 2022. (KSNT/ Keith Horinek)

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — Kansas Governor Laura Kelly released her budget for this year and the next fiscal year on Wednesday, laying out her plans to invest in the state’s recovery after financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governor’s latest move was announced during her annual State of the State address, promising a freeze on college tuition increases at the state’s public universities. The plan is expected to cost millions of dollars. Kelly’s plan is proposing $45.7 million.

Lawmakers in the House Higher Education Budget committee say approving the move is ‘possible,’ but they’re keeping an eye on the cost.

“I think they want to hear how much money they’re talking about, and they want to hear the other side to see how it affects universities, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea to freeze tuition increases for a year and see how that goes,” committee chair Representative Barbara Wasinger, R-Hays, said.

Representative Brandon Woodard, D-Lenexa, a ranking minority member on the committee, said he’s hoping approval of the plan will make sure hardworking families aren’t paying more at state universities.

“I think we’re going to have to look into the numbers to see what the Board of Regents has proposed. I know that they have initially asked for about $90 million to prevent the tuition increase,” Rep. Woodard said.

Woodard told Kansas Capitol Bureau on Thursday that he also supports the governor’s plan to set aside $25 million for a new grant for students attending a state university.

According to the proposal, the need-based grant would be available to Kansas resident undergraduate students enrolled on a part-time or full-time basis, with preference given to returning and transfer students at the institutions.

“That would allow us to leverage private support as well to provide very desperately needed, need-based aid for our students,” Woodard said.

The governor’s plan also proposes nearly $1 billion in tax cuts, spending $587 million to pay off state debt and speed up repayment.

Kelly also proposed setting aside $450 million as an estimated cost of eliminating the state sales tax on grocery purchases, a campaign promise she’s hoping to follow through on this year.

“With this surplus in the bank and increased revenue because of our economic growth, we can finally responsibly afford to totally eliminate the grocery sales tax.”

GOV. LAURA KELLY, (D) KANSAS

Also inside the budget plan is a $460 million one-time rebate of $250 to Kansas individual taxpayers. It would be $500 for those filing jointly.

It also fully funds K-12 schools, promises a 5% pay raise to state employees and invests in law enforcement and juvenile justice programs.

For the Governor’s full budget recommendation, click here.

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