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

GOP leader eager for sales tax rate cut, Rainy Day Fund and pension investment

By: - January 11, 2022 7:13 pm

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, left, says in a rebuttal to Gov. Laura Kelly’s annual State of the State speech the GOP would seek to cut the sales tax rate, build a Rainy Day Fund and invest in the state’s pension system. (Noah Taborda/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, invest 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 capable of nimbly responding 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 through 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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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.