Kansas leader talks rural growth

Jul 20, 2019

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WATHENA, Kansas — A Kansas leader is on a tour to assure constituents and businesses that he won’t approach their needs with a “Let them eat cake” attitude.

Visiting Marie Antoinette’s Gluten Free Bake Shoppe and the Dairy Barn family restaurant on Thursday afternoon in Wathena, Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers emphasized how the Democratic-led administration of Gov. Laura Kelly wants to dispel the notion that the state government cares only for Topeka, Johnson County and other high-population communities.

“For both Gov. Kelly and myself, that’s really important. We want to be out in the country and on a regular basis,” Rogers said. “Every time we hear a suggestion, we’ll have some staff look into that.”

Marie Antoinette’s owner Rani Navarro-Force said she believes that the first thing the state government should do is pave roads through bureaucracy toward business growth in local communities.

However, breaking into new markets and operating multiple tiers of her business imposes what Navarro-Force regards as imposing regulatory requirements and fees, some adding up to tens of thousands of dollars per year. Navarro-Force urged Rogers to sponsor state financial incentives that can assist with such burdens.

“That would be a great help, you know, with the state if they could actually provide the resources that we need in order to fulfill the obligations that the state requires,” she said.

At the Atchison Event Center, the state government called together focus groups led by employees from the Office of Rural Prosperity, to help determine what local constituents believe is their ideal of a successful community. The focus groups wrote down their ideas on easels and gave presentations on policies the state government should pursue.

As might be expected, leading issues proved to be helping less-advantaged residents afford housing, education and health care. The Democratic-led Kelly administration, since taking office in January, has actively sought to pass Medicaid expansion under the auspices of the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Thus far, the Republican-dominated Legislature has declined to play ball.

If Medicaid expansion could happen, focus group participant Stevie Durkin said, it would make a big difference, to the tune of millions of dollars in guaranteed revenue for regional health services.

“Because so many people are uninsured,” said Durkin, executive director of the Atchison Community Health Clinic. “So what we would love to see is an enhanced effort to kind of increase funding for community health centers so we can take care of people, regardless of their ability to pay.”

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