Governor Laura Kelly today delivered virtual testimony to the House Committee on Financial Services, advocating for support from the federal government to help states recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Witnesses during the hearing, “The Need for Financial Aid to America’s States and Territories During the Pandemic: Supporting First Responders, Assisting Schools in Their Efforts to Safely Educate, and Preventing Mass Layoffs”, included Governor Laura Kelly, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico, Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota, Governor Lourdes “Lou” Leon Guerrero of Guam, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin, President of American Action Forum.
Read the testimony from Governor Laura Kelly:
“Chairwoman Waters, Ranking Member McHenry, and members of the Committee, I am Laura Kelly, Governor of Kansas.
Thank you for the invitation to testify on behalf of my state regarding our need for federal aid as we overcome the unprecedented challenges brought forth by COVID-19.
We have seen record numbers of weekly Unemployment claims, which overwhelmed our Department of Labor’s antiquated computer system.
At times, we have struggled to access Personal Protective Equipment for our health care workers and adequately test our population for COVID-19.
Our small businesses have suffered. Many have been unable to make up for lost revenue, were forced to furlough employees, or even shut their doors completely.
Through all these challenges, my administration has worked to keep Kansas families safe and healthy.
I’d also like to thank Congresswoman Sharice Davids, for being a strong advocate for Kansas small businesses during the pandemic – introducing legislation requiring transparency around relief funds to make sure they’re getting to small businesses in Kansas.
However, we will need significantly more support from our federal partners to protect our institutions from drastic and damaging cuts.
Kansas is uniquely suited to address a looming budget crisis during these unprecedented times because we have already overcome one this decade – albeit self-inflicted, rather than an act of God.
In 2012, my predecessor, Governor Sam Brownback, signed into law one of the most draconian tax cuts in our state’s history.
The consequences were profound.
As a 14-year member of the State Senate, I watched in dismay as other states recovered and grew in the wake of the 2008 recession – while Kansas instead moved backward.
State revenues plummeted by $900 million, school funding was drastically cut, infrastructure spending was decimated, and critical programs like Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and foster care were gutted.
Kansas’ bond rating was downgraded twice. Our agencies were hollowed out, our state highway and health care funds were robbed.
There are so many more examples – but the bottom line is that years of austerity hurt our business owners, our farmers, our children, our teachers, our essential workers, and our families.
Before the pandemic, my administration’s budget was crafted to get Kansas back on sound financial footing – a process we expected would take years of responsible governance.
We have prioritized rebuilding our state’s fiscal foundation.
We re-established economic development tools within our Department of Commerce, critical to ensuring Kansas can compete on a global scale.
We passed a historic ten-year transportation plan, and fully funded public education for the first time in years.
Thankfully, in 2017, a bipartisan group of legislators came together to undo the tax cuts implemented in 2012 and begin the uphill climb of closing the budget deficit.
Unfortunately, as we were righting the ship, we were hit with the worst public health crisis in a century.
This pandemic is different, and the fix isn’t as simple as just tightening our belt buckle.
Our federal partners must step in and help.
I know firsthand that cutting local and state government funding will hamstring states’ ability to fight the pandemic and leave us more vulnerable to future crises.
Severe budget cuts don’t create small government. They create failed government.
Governments that can’t provide the essential services and investments this country was built on: good schools, stable infrastructure, a solid social safety net, and a robust economy.
I had a front-row seat to the worst budget crisis in our state’s history – and I know it hit the most vulnerable among us the hardest.
We need continued investments at the local level to allow for decisions that best respond to individual community needs.
We need support for strategic investments to stop the spread of the virus, enhance the state’s ability to respond, protect our schools, and provide needed economic assistance to small businesses.
We need the federal government to support states and support Kansans who are struggling.
We need a coherent, top-down strategy that will reassure businesses and Americans that our government has a plan to keep our economy stable until a vaccine is available.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning.”