AARP Kansas remains dedicated to improving our health care system and promoting healthy behaviors in Kansas. In addition to our work on health care reform at the national level, AARP Kansas supports House Bill 2221, the Clean Indoor Air Act which would ban indoor smoking in bars, restaurants, a majority of rooms in hotels/motels, in home day care, enclosed places of employment and taxicabs and limousines. AARP Kansas supports this legislation because it will greatly improve the health of many Kansans almost immediately and save millions in healthcare-related costs. With all that we know about the harmful effects of secondhand smoke, it makes sense to ban indoor smoking in public places on a statewide basis, eliminating the fear that a local ban would put a community at a competitive disadvantage to its neighbor.
Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson announced his support of the statewide smoking ban in his State of the State address to the Legislature on January 11. At the same time, Governor Parkinson also proposed raising the tax on cigarettes sold in Kansas from 79 cents to the national average of $1.34. AARP Kansas supports this increase because it will bring in additional revenues to the state to offset budget cuts in other areas like Medicaid and aging services.
Another important area AARP Kansas continues to be involved in is energy efficiency. While supporting efforts to increase energy efficiency in the state, AARP Kansas believes that energy efficiency programs should not be administered by utility companies which stand to lose revenue when homes use less energy. Instead, AARP Kansas supports the creation of a 3rd Party Administrator to work with Kansas consumers on energy conservation and home weatherization programs that will reduce energy consumption and keep utility rates more affordable.
AARP Kansas will continue to oppose any efforts to impose TABOR or Taxpayer Bill of Rights initiatives in Kansas. TABOR is a constitutional amendment that restricts revenue or expenditure growth to the sum of inflation plus population change and only by a vote of the people can these restrictions be overridden. While it may sound reasonable to keep government expenditures in line, TABOR paralyzes the state by undermining the ability of elected officials to do this based on actual circumstances and leads to the decline of services in the areas of law enforcement, education, and children and family services and makes new initiatives virtually impossible to undertake.
Finally, AARP Kansas continues to support rebalancing the state’s long term care system. AARP believes that funding should be re-directed from nursing homes to home and community based services that allow more Kansans to remain in their homes as they age or become disabled. According to a 2008 AARP Public Policy Institute report, there are 5.15 nursing home residents for every 100 people age 65+ in Kansas. This makes Kansas the 6th highest state in the nation for placement in nursing homes which is 43 percent higher than the national average. AARP Kansas will continue to work on behalf of Kansans who want to remain in their homes as long as possible.