By Johnathan Shorman
February 8, 2017
Annie McKay is a creature of Kansas.
The native Kansan is helming Kansas Action for Children as it navigates one of the most momentous legislative sessions in years. Wide-ranging tax and budget changes are possible, and on a near-daily basis, KAC attempts to assess how developments will affect children.
KAC is located just a block away from the Statehouse, and McKay is a frequent presence in committee hearings. McKay, former director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth, comes to KAC with previous experience with tax and budget policy.
McKay has been director and CEO of KAC for about eight months and took over from Shannon Cotsoradis, who departed for an out-of-state job.
McKay sat down to answer a few questions Tuesday. These questions and answers have been condensed for space.
What is the ‘action’ in Kansas Action for Children?
We started about 38 years ago in 1979, because at the time there were groups that came together and recognized there was not a voice for little kids in the Statehouse, certainly not one that was free and independent of state and federal dollars, so Kansas Action launched. We think of our work happening in three buckets: research and analysis, policy and politics, and communications and outreach. So depending on what policy issue we’re looking at, we deploy those three action steps in all of our policy priorities.
What’s the day-to-day like for KAC during session?
We don’t start when the session starts, we start well ahead of that. So connecting with policymakers in the off-session to talk about those priorities, to give them additional information so they really come in equipped with what we’re working on so we’re not starting those conversations cold when the session starts. We’re interested on behalf of health, economic and education policies that benefit Kansas kids and their families.
What are you optimistic about this session?
I think you can’t help but notice to be in the Statehouse there is a discernible shift in tone and climate. And I think that creates a lot of optimism for moving good policies forward, and perhaps stopping proposals that before may have gained greater traction.
What gives you reason for caution?
Nearly a third of our Legislature is newly elected, and I think a lot of those folks are coming in with a foundation of knowledge that’s tremendous. They have a greater grasp on what’s happened in the last several years on tax policy changes and other changes and the impacts they’re having across the state. So I think while that’s good and while they may be more knowledgeable, they are legislating for the first time. And that pressure that they feel, and being bombarded by constituents and having lobbyists and people in the building at their feet asking for time, I think that’s different.
You’re a native Kansan. Does that make your job more meaningful?
I was born and raised in the south-central part of the state and when you come, as you know, from the central or the west part of the state there’s sort of a different, maybe, fight in your spirit, because we often are dismissed. That’s not where the power center is. That’s not Johnson County or it’s not Wichita or it’s not real close to Topeka or the Statehouse. So I think that really fuels my scrappy nature.
When you go to Starbucks, you order — ?
I am embarrassed to say. When I go to Starbucks, they know me by name, and I order a five-shot venti americano with soy milk.