A Democratic candidate for Kansas governor implored the state’s congressional delegation Monday to reauthorize a federal program providing health insurance to 37,000 children in mostly working-class families.

On the other side of the partisan divide, a Republican gubernatorial candidate said more needed to be done in Kansas to attract and keep young professionals necessary for thriving start-up businesses.

Democratic candidate Josh Svaty said Congress made the Children’s Health Insurance Program a political bargaining chip by allowing funding to expire in September, leaving states to maintain coverage for nearly 9 million children until money runs out state by state.

“The Children’s Health Insurance Program should not be a political pawn used as leverage for support of other programs of less importance. If you can ensure that at least 37,000 Kansas children in need can keep their health care coverage, you cast that vote without hesitation,” Svaty said.

The U.S. House passed CHIP legislation, but the U.S. Senate hasn’t taken up the measure.

Kansas officials said the state’s CHIP funding reserves would be gone by March. The $90 million required to fill the gap through June 2019 was deleted by the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback from a budget proposal submitted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

It is possible Kansas children in CHIP could be enrolled in Medicaid, while others might turn to family policies tied to the Affordable Care Act or private employer health plans.

Jim Barnett, a Kansas Republican gubernatorial candidate, said Monday the state must do a better job of curtailing the brain drain of young professionals required to build emerging businesses.

“For the past three years,” he said, “Kansas has been one of five states losing the most population. And, Kansas ranks in the bottom half of new business start ups and small business activity.”

Barnett said many new businesses in Kansas showed promise, but the state Department of Labor reported 48,000 job vacancies statewide. Many of these jobs require a two- or four-year college degree or targeted vocational training, he said.

“It can be difficult for young people to find the footing to take a good first step in life. As governor, I will help young people who grow up in Kansas to find a good job and raise a family here, as well as attracting young people who grew up elsewhere,” Barnett said.