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TOPEKA (KSNT)- Kansas Governor Laura Kelly outlined her top priorities for 2023 in the annual State of the State address on Tuesday. 

One of the top items on the governor’s list is tax relief. She pushed her “Axing Your Taxes” plan, which would account for $500 million in tax cuts over the next three years. 

“We are in this position to responsibly provide tax relief because we have been laser-focused on creating a solid fiscal foundation for our state.”

Gov. Laura Kelly, D-Kansas

“But let me make myself clear: I will stand against any irresponsible tax proposals that erode that foundation. We have been there before. We know where it leads. And we can’t go back,” she continued. 

One of the highlights of her plan includes getting rid of the state’s food tax this year. It’s an issue she pushed for last year, but it was met with scrutiny by some Republicans who argued in favor of spending cautiously.

“There is no reason that Kansans should ever look down at their grocery receipts and see this tax,” Gov. 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.”

Lawmakers negotiated a gradual reduction last year, which dropped the state sales tax on food from 6.5% to 4% starting January 1. Gov. Kelly’s plan would eliminate the tax by this summer.

In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau, Speaker of the Kansas House Dan Hawkins said it’s likely that lawmakers will take action on the food tax this year, but it’s unclear what the legislation will look like.

“$9.5 billion is the budget she’s proposed. It’s actually the largest budget in the history of the state of Kansas,” Hawkins said. “It’s about $1.1 billion higher than last year’s budget, and so, we’re really going through her budget to decide, do we really want to do everything she’s proposing?”

The governor is also planning to take a step toward marijuana reform, calling on lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana this year.

“In 39 other states, Americans with chronic pain, seizure disorders, and PTSD can access medical marijuana to relieve their suffering,” Kelly said. “But, 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.”

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle met during the interim to work on a medical marijuana bill. 

Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, is spearheading efforts to create a final draft, which he said is expected to be introduced in the Senate.

Some Republican leaders and state officials have spoken against legalizing marijuana in the past, citing potential issues with enforcing the legislation. 

While, the bill is likely to gain support in the House, it could face roadblocks in the Senate. Republican Senate President Ty Masterson has said the issue is not a legislative priority.

“We’ll need to put in place effective safeguards to ensure that it’s used appropriately and that it’s not abused,” she said. “But I believe, like with everything else, if you and I work together, we can find a fair and common-sense solution.”

Gov. Kelly also continues to push for Medicaid expansion, despite pushback from Republicans in the past.

In a response to the governor’s speech, Senate President Masterson shared where his caucus stands on expanding Medicaid.

“Republicans support health care freedom and expanding access to affordable care through cost transparency, more competition, and less government regulation over your consumer choices – This can all be done while preserving a safety net for those in our society who are most vulnerable. Unfortunately, the governor’s party remains focused almost solely on government-run health care, which would dramatically expand the administrative state and harm the very people for whom the Medicaid safety net was intended.”

Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover

“Now I know, I sound like a broken record, but it’s only because we have a broken healthcare system,” said Kelly. “Already, too many rural hospitals have shut their doors. When that happens, the communities have been devastated.”

“And if you’re sick of hearing me talk about this, and you don’t want to hear about it again in next year’s speech, let’s expand Medicaid this session,” Kelly continued.

For the Governor’s full speech, click here

For the response from Republican leaders, click here.