Gov. Laura Kelly said Wednesday she’ll dispatch her lieutenant governor to a dozen small cities across the state in hopes of crafting a plan to aid rural areas.
Kelly created the Office of Rural Prosperity and named Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers to head it in January soon after taking office.
Rogers will travel to 12 rural communities this summer to “listen to Kansans” and develop “long-term, sustainable solutions” to problems that have spurred decades of population decline in all but a handful of the state’s 105 counties.
“Rural Kansas has been overlooked and unheard for far too long,” Kelly said at a Statehouse news conference.
As a result, she said, many rural Kansas communities lack the infrastructure and workforce needed to survive economically. Other problems include, lack access to health care and affordable housing.
“We need rural Kansas to survive and gain strength,” Kelly said.
Rogers said his office has identified seven “key areas” of focus. They include housing, health care, workforce and infrastructure (roads and broadband).
“We’re committed to working with state agencies and the Legislature to ensure that all Kansans have access to a high quality of life no matter what their ZIP code might be,” he said.
Rogers’ tour schedule includes stops in the following communities:
- Nickerson, June 17
- Atchison, June 20
- Colby, June 24
- Phillipsburg, June 25
- Winfield, July 8
- Lindsborg, July 10
- Garnett, July 22
- Independence, July 23
- Ulysses, July 30
- Concordia, Aug. 1
- Sabetha, Aug. 5
- Dodge City, Aug. 7
Each day-long visit will conclude with a town-hall meeting, Rogers said.
The Office of Rural Prosperity has an initial budget of $2 million. Most of that will go to provide rural communities with grants and technical assistance.
Rogers said his office will work closely with the House Committee on Rural Revitalization, which began meeting during the 2019 legislative session.
Rep. Don Hineman, the Dighton Republican who chairs the committee, described its mission in an episode of the Kansas News Service’s Statehouse Blend podcast.
Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks or email jim (at) kcur (dot) org.
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