Capitol Comments Articles
State of the State and Response Is Delivered in Kansas

GovLauraKelly (Jan. 11, 2024) – Governor Laura Kelly provided her annual State of the State Address last night. The governor opened the address with reflections on last year's speech highlighting the momentum that has been made to date and stressing that while "achieving is hard, sustaining is harder." She focused on the link between the needs of rural Kansas and its counterparts in urban areas, saying, "When rural Kansas is strong, all Kansas is strong." She committed to spending the rest of her term focusing on issues of importance to rural Kansas.

The governor highlighted her policy agenda, including:

  • The need to keep public schools fully funded and expressed a disinterest in diverting public funds for private schools
  • Special education funding needs for Kansas schools
  • A need for significant investments in early childcare and daycare for working parents
  • Reorganization of childcare center-related agencies
  • Continued investments in the State Water Plan
  • A tax proposal alternative that includes:
    • expedited buy down of the food ingredient sales tax
    • elimination of state taxes on social security
    • raising residential property tax exemption from $40,000 to $100,000
    • creating a back-to-school sales tax holiday
    • increasing standard deductions
    • increases to childcare tax credit

The governor also renewed the call for Medicaid expansion, drawing a parallel of her approach to listening to Kansans on the license plate for the state and calling on the legislature to listen to Kansans and hold a hearing on the proposed Medicaid expansion bill by Kansas Day.

The governor suggested rural hospitals in Kansas are not doing well financially and pointed to the closure of Herrington Hospital and the Fort Scott emergency room. She highlighted national statistics suggesting that 59 hospitals are in financial jeopardy. She explained those hospitals are faced with difficult choices such as laying off staff, cutting services and asking the counties to consider further investments in the form of additional property taxes. Further, the governor suggested far too many Kansans working don't have employer-based insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. While acknowledging the opposition says Medicaid expansion is not a silver bullet for hospitals, the governor agreed and said the problem also cannot be solved without it.

Speaker of the House Dan Hawkins delivered the pre-recorded response to the State of the State. Speaker Hawkins emphasized he hears Kansans' desires for less government interventions. He compared the state executive branch to the federal executive branch in spending approaches. The speaker emphasized Medicaid expansion is for able-bodied working-age people. Hawkins emphasized families are focused on higher living expenses and economic uncertainty and deserve relief in tax cuts. Speaker Hawkins highlighted the belief in policies such as higher medical reimbursement rates, more support for community mental health centers, eliminating the Intellectual / Developmental Disability waiting lists, and increasing access to care with support for charitable health care clinics.

The speeches are followed by the governor's official budget proposal to the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committee members. The governor's budget is the base for legislators to begin their budgeting process for the 2024 legislative session.