(Jan. 13, 2021) – During the State of the State address, Governor Laura Kelly recognized the unique times with her virtual delivery. She acknowledged all of those who have endured difficult times by thanking health care and other frontline workers for their struggle and sacrifice through the pandemic. Governor Kelly issued renewed a call for Medicaid expansion as a necessary component to ensure the health of Kansans and revitalizing the economy. With the focus on the state's financial health, the governor announced her Framework for Growth plan, a roadmap for the Kansas economy. The plan identified a few critical areas of investment; small businesses, infrastructure, new job creation, agriculture and broadband.
The address highlighted the Mainstreet program as a critical way to help small businesses, the newly passed 10-year IKE transportation program, and the corresponding job creation in infrastructure. The governor recognized agriculture and tied it to critical broadband investments. Access to high-speed internet was emphasized as a vital tool for telehealth, education and e-commerce.
While budget details will come in a joint address to House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means later this week, a few key items were highlighted in her speech. The governor, acknowledging some of the unemployment access issues, pointed to a budget commitment of $37.5 million in order to modernize information technology systems to better serve Kansans. The governor pointed to a budget, which would close out the year with a $600 million ending balance while cautioning against tax cuts that could jeopardize this projected figure.
Governor Kelly, recognized retiring U.S. Senator Pat Roberts and called on the legislature to work together with the administration as Kansans work through the pandemic recovery.
State of the State Response
The Republican response to the State of the State was delivered by new Senate President Ty Masterson (R-Andover). The pre-recorded response was concentrated on policies to benefit Kansas families and included recognition of the significant challenges health care and other frontline workers have faced. Senator Masterson focused on constitutional liberties, local control in education, and the need for tax reform. The Senate President Masterson emphasized the need for individual choice related to personal health care choices that retain flexibility in obtaining affordable coverage while preserving established safety net programs for their intended recipients.