Kansas Governor Laura Kelly outlined the goals for her second term in office Tuesday evening during her State of the State Address to the Kansas Legislature. She talked about themes of civility and unity that she delivered during her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month, and she talked about tax cuts, school funding, workforce training and also called for Medicaid expansion and approving medical marijuana.
The governor called on lawmakers to pass her three-part tax cut proposal, eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, creating a sales tax holiday for school supplies, and providing a break for senior citizens on Social Security benefits. She said she is ready to sign “three clean bills, right away.” The governor said the state is focused on creating a solid fiscal foundation, but she will stand against any tax proposals that erode that foundation. She called on lawmaker to pass “fiscally sound tax cuts that we can afford.”
The governor said her budget fully funds public schools in the next year, and it will put the state on a path to fully fund special education. She said the classroom is a special place where young minds are shaped and inspired, but it is not a place for politics. She said she will oppose any bill “that is designed to turn parents against teachers, to turn communities against their schools, and to turn young people away from the teaching profession.” She said Kansas needs to focus on giving students and teachers the resources and support they need.
The governor also called for funding for training programs and to boost the work of the Office of Registered Apprenticeship in the Department of Commerce. She said there aren’t enough skilled workers for the jobs being created, and if the state fails to train a workforce, businesses will stop coming to Kansas and more young people will go to other states to look for work.
Kelly also called for efforts to ensure the quality and quantity of water, and she said that will be vital to the economy of western Kansas and the entire state. She said the state water plan was updated and fully funded last year, and that will continue this year in her budget.
The governor also appealed for an expansion of Medicaid, saying the state has left $6 billion in Washington, D.C. and forfeited 23,000 jobs. She said by far the most impactful thing Kansas could do for its small towns is to use that funding to enable 150,000 Kansans to have access to affordable health care.
Kelly also called for legalization of medical marijuana, and effective safeguards need to be put in place to ensure it is used appropriately. She also wants to improve access to mental health services and her budget would expand intervention teams for schools, and it also provides funding for adult psychiatric services in the Wichita area, as well as funding to address the shortage of mental health workers across the state. She also wants to expand mental health care for first responders.
The governor called for a continued partnership with lawmakers, calling them to “meet me in the middle” on the issues facing Kansas. She said the best solutions aren’t Republican or Democrat, but they will come from compromise and collaboration, finding common sense middle-of-the-road solutions.