Kelly promises to investigate Innovation Campus if elected governor

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Laura Kelly spoke to supporters in Wichita Friday, voicing her concerns with Innovation Campus and decrying privatization in state government.

The Kansas Senate minority whip, who was joined at Milkfloat by her running mate and Senate colleague Lynn Rogers, spent half an hour answering questions from the audience on such issues as gun control, marijuana reform, and transparency.

When asked about transparency in state government and higher education, Kelly said she would investigate public-private partnerships on Innovation Campus as governor.

“I want to address one concern with that Innovation Campus,” Kelly said. “My biggest concern is that we are building a private school on public land.”

“We will investigate that when I am governor,” Kelly said.

Rogers told The Wichita Eagle in March that the way projects are managed on Innovation Campus seems like a “work-around” to bypass public discussion and accountability.

Rogers, who represents District 25 in Wichita, authored a provisio to the recently passed budget bill requiring state universities to conduct student fees deliberations publicly. He told The Sunflower that the requirement was written in response to the Febuary incident at Wichita State when reporters were barred entry from a meeting at which representatives from student government and the university discussed the allocation of between $9.5 million and $9.84 million in student fees.

“There are some major concerns and I do think it’s an issue of transparency and following state law,” Rogers said Friday.

Kelly made it clear her skepticism of privatization goes beyond just Innovation Campus.

“One of the things that concerns me the most about what has happened over the last eight years is the number of deals that have been cut behind closed doors with private industry,” Kelly said. “We have privatized so much our state government.”

Kelly cited the foster care system and the Medicaid program as examples of privatization projects the state legislature has had little control over. She characterized Kansas’s outsourcing of Medicaid to three for-profit, out-of-state insurance companies as “nothing but a mess” for providers and patients.

“We know that we are shipping money outside the state that’s not being used for Kansans,” Kelly said. “It will take some time because we have some contractual issues to deal with, but you can trust that that will be one of the things that we look at is how we move that from the private, for-profit world back into the quasi-governmental entity non-profit.”

The 68-year-old said she hopes to ultimately move away from such private contracts at the state level when possible.

When I’m governor, what we’re going to do is put all those contracts on the table and lay it out, look at them, and where we can and where we should, we’re going to move away from those.”