July 18th, 2019

francis at depot125th Representative Shannon Francis talks with Seward County Commissioner Jim Rice and his wife, Carolyn, before his presentation at the Rock Island Depot Thursday afternoon. Francis talked about many of the projects he has been part of as well as upcoming projects throughout the state. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first part of the story recapping the Legislative Brown Bag luncheon at the Rock Island Depot Thursday afternoon featuring 125th Representative Shannon Francis and will focus on some of the major happenings he has been part of. The next part will focus on some of the questions Francis answered from the public. 

The Kansas state government has seen many changes in the past several months including the election of new governor Laura Kelly and representatives and senators being appointed to new positions, among many other changes. 125th Representative Shannon Francis visited Liberal Thursday afternoon to talk to local citizens about his observations in Topeka the past several months. 

“This is going to be quite a different year than the past three or four years we’ve had,” Francis began. “One of the things we’ve really dealt with is how we didn’t have sufficient funding to fund the basic services of the government. I think now, we have enough resources in the system and one of the important things we have to do now is make sure we don’t use them stupidly and we also deliver value to all of you and do what is important to you.”

This year will see a lot of major issues coming up, Francis said. 

“In July the Kansas Supreme Court ruled we have to do some work on some things with our last school finance plan, particularly with the inflation adjustment, and that inflation adjustment is supposedly $360 million throughout the next five years,” Francis said. “Depending on how that is phased in and your own interpretation, it’s something that’s either relatively possible to achieve or it’s impossible to achieve. Another thing that happened is I was lucky enough to be appointed to the Transportation Vision Task Force during the summer and I had to opportunity to help start plans to fund transportation adequately. I’ve worked for a long time to be in that position and I’m also working on the Public Safety Budget this year, so I’m really happy with that.”

Francis then talked more about the Transportation Vision Task Force and some of the work he was part of. 

“That task force I was part of, we came back and came back with a lot of things we wanted to do, which most importantly involved making sure we adequately fund Preservation,” Francis said. “We currently are not funding Preservation at the level it needs to be for our infrastructure – we’re doing only 1-inch overlays in spots where we should be doing more than that and we’re having to put on hold tearing out roads needing to be completely replaced. A second priority, and this is the feeling across the legislature, is we need to finish the projects we’ve already promised people. In our community, we already have three phases on the U.S. Hwy. 54 project to the east and two of those phases were put on hold because of lack of funding but KDOT needed to finish those projects. So finding a way to keep $300 million in transportation going forward these next few years ... what they told us is we’d have enough to finish the work already going on and enough to do our presentation and then have some money for other work across the state. And we know there will probably be other resources we’ll have to use in order to complete everything, especially the practical improvements. And what I mean by practical improvements is there are some roads in areas that don’t have shoulders and rather severe drop-offs, among other things.”

Francis also talked briefly about the federal tax cuts from 2018. 

“They passed the federal tax cuts and what that did was it increased the exemption for individuals,” Francis said. “Kansas didn’t so there’s going to be additional funding that will come into Kansas as a result of that increase in the exemption. There’s going to be an effort to de-couple from those federal cuts to allow people to itemize certain things and that will help create a fiscal note of somewhere between $65 million and $130 million each year to the federal budget, and part of that is also because of some changes to the tax code and things like that. For the past few years we’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul for certain things and I don’t know if that is how the situation will be going forward, but policy has been rather grounded because we don’t have the money to do any new policies.”

Another thing Francis said he and other representatives have been diligently working on is water resource preservation. 

“The past two years, some other representatives and I have made a big push to have some funding restored to fund water plans,” Francis said. “As the Ogallala Aquifer continues to be depleted, it’s important to help preserve what’s there. One of the reasons I was so excited to be appointed to the Transportation and Public Safety budget as well as the appropriations committee is to help encourage something to be done as far as the preservation of our water resources.”

Another issue Francis said has been at the forefront of several representatives’ minds is access to broadband. 

“One of the things about broadband is broadband is not just a rural problem. In fact, there are several areas having issues, including urban areas,” Francis said. “There are a lot of factors going into that which need to be addressed and we know especially in rural areas, as farming operations start needing less help, as people start buying more stuff on the Internet, it’s hard to maintain a population in rural communities since rural broadband can be really bad in some areas. I know of some people who will move back to their hometown because they can work online. One of my friends in the legislature, his daughter and son-in-law moved back to their hometown because they knew they could have that access.”

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