Gov. Laura Kelly (D) spoke in her 2023 State of the State address to the Kansas Legislature fresh off her re-election, focusing on bipartisanship for the upcoming legislative season and touting her accomplishments over the last four years on Tuesday.
Kelly’s speech started with references to her food tax reduction plan while still calling for more action to reduce the tax to 0% quicker.
“There is no reason that Kansans should ever look down at their grocery receipts and see this tax,” Kelly said. “Folks can’t afford it. Folks don’t deserve it. And there’s no need to wait for 2025. Let’s end it now.”
Kelly also called for responsibly axing the state sales tax on feminine hygiene products and diapers and providing a four-day tax-free window for school supplies.
“In total, the ‘Axing Your Taxes’ plan saves Kansans $500 million over the next three years,” Kelly said. “And that’s on top of the billion dollars in savings from the tax cuts we passed last year.”
Kelly also promoted legalizing medical marijuana in her speech, saying it was an important step toward improving healthcare access in Kansas.
“Despite the fact that a very clear majority of physicians believe medical marijuana should be part of a comprehensive pain management and palliative care plan, it’s still illegal here in Kansas,” Kelly said.
Kelly cited the case of a man named Greg Bretz, who was terminally ill and was using marijuana to ease his pain. His hospital room was raided by the police, and Bretz was ordered to appear in court.
“This is not to blame the police - the police were just enforcing the law,” Kelly said. “That means the law itself is ridiculous.”
In her speech, mental health was also top of mind - Kelly said that although much has been done, such as launching the 988 hotline and increasing mental health funding for youth, much more needs to be done.
“My budget expands Mental Health Intervention Teams in our schools to have an even greater reach,” Kelly said. “It also provides funding for adult psychiatric services in the Wichita area and funding to address the shortage of mental health workers across the state.”
Kelly finished her speech by talking about the so-called fentanyl crisis and drug addiction. Kelly proposed in her speech placing naloxone in schools and decriminalizing fentanyl test strips to help combat the issue.
“We’ve debated this before,” Kelly said. “The reality is test strips save lives and money. Let’s get a bill passed this session that decriminalizes these strips and prevents exposure to fentanyl in the first place – long before it kills more Kansans.”
Kelly received a bipartisan "Happy Birthday" rendition before her speech began. It was her 73rd birthday on Tuesday, making her one of the oldest governors in the country.
Kelly had to delay her address two weeks ago after testing positive for COVID-19. It was later revealed that subsequent testing had pronounced her negative - however, the governor’s office decided to keep the moved date in place.
“The delay was simply to ensure that I had a crowd to celebrate my birthday with,” Kelly said.
Kelly faces a challenging path ahead for her legislative agenda - both House and Senate currently hold GOP super-majorities.