TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly is delivering her fourth State of the State speech Tuesday evening in the Kansas Statehouse.
“After two years of challenges, of limited gatherings, it is my high honor to stand before you once again this evening to deliver my fourth State of the State Address,” Kelly said. “To report on our shared successes, and to present a blueprint for the final year of my first term.”
Kelly began by introducing some of her key supporters such as her husband and First Gentleman Ted Daughety and her two children Kathleen and Molly. She also introduced Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce David Toland and his wife Beth.
“For the past three years, Lieutenant Governor Toland has worked tirelessly as the Secretary of the Department of Commerce,” Kelly said. “He has spearheaded efforts to help small businesses weather the pandemic. He has rebuilt Commerce programs to, once again, make Kansas nationally and globally competitive. I’m fortunate to have him by my side, as we continue to put his economic development expertise to good use for Kansans and Kansas communities.“
Kelly also thanked former Lieutenant Governor Lynn Rogers, who now serves as Kansas’ State Treasurer.
“Lynn is a compassionate, hard-working, and dedicated public servant and he has been a fantastic Treasurer,” said Kelly. “Lynn has already returned more than $5 million dollars of unclaimed property to the rightful owners. Thank you, Lynn, for your leadership and your continued service.”
Kelly then proceeded to extend her thanks to everyone in attendance for “serving during a uniquely challenging moment in our state’s history.” She highlighted the cost the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on Kansas for the past two years and the continued troubles caused by new outbreaks.
Kelly then turned her attention to addressing the “heroes” of the pandemic.
“Our health care professionals have persevered, working long, hard hours, for weeks, then months, now years, to save lives,” Kelly said. “They continue to be our heroes.”
Kelly introduced a charge nurse named Whitney Freel from the medical intensive care unit at Stormont Vail and took a moment to recognize her, and other people like her, for their work during the pandemic. The arrival of new variants, such as Omicron, and the nature of the current pandemic still pose a great threat to Kansans and will continue to pressure hospitals, according to Kelly.
“Help each other by getting vaccinated, getting your children vaccinated and getting the third shot,” Kelly said. “This is how you keep yourself, and those around you, healthy. We owe it to each other.”
Kelly then went on to speak about the Kansas economy, stating that the state has experienced the largest budget surplus in the past 40 years. She emphasized the need to put an end to the state’s sales tax on food as well.
“For years, many of us, on both sides of the aisle, have been calling for an end to the state’s sales tax on food,” Kelly said. “Now, with this surplus in the bank and increased revenue because of our economic growth, we can finally, responsibly, afford to totally eliminate the grocery sales tax.”
Also on the topic of finances, Kelly announced that her budget is planning on freezing college tuition increases in Kansas, working to attract more businesses to the state and supporting the agriculture industry.
“These are the types of things we can do when our state’s economy is growing the way it is, and it is economic growth we should all be proud of,” Kelly said.
Kelly also remarked that Medicaid expansion would be one of her top objectives this year.
“Medicaid expansion is something we can do right now,” Kelly said. “It is well past time. Let’s get this done. A strong health care system will always be a hallmark of a healthy state and a healthy economy.”
The governor went on to talk more about some of her accomplishments including fully funding public schools, providing grants to help students catch up with their education, helping children in foster care and increasing the budget for law enforcement officers.
Kelly also took a moment to remember Senator Bob Dole, who passed away last year.
“We lost our proudest native son, Bob Dole,” Kelly said. “Senator Dole was a passionate voice for Kansas. He was also a passionate voice for an entire generation, the greatest generation.”
Rounding out her speech, she began to go over things that she believes Kansans want such as:
“New businesses that bring good jobs, strong public schools, roads that don’t wreck their cars, safe communities, access to basic health care, a balanced budget and when possible, and when responsible, tax relief to help working families,” Kelly said.
Political divides were also brought up by the governor as being “toxic”. She highlighted the need for civility and being able to compromise so that “We can be role models for our children.”
Kelly finished her State of the State speech by quoting Buck O’Neil, a baseball player for the Kansas City Monarchs, by saying:
“Hold hands with the person next to you. That way, they can’t get away. And neither can you.