KANSAS CITY, Mo. — During her State of the State address on Tuesday night, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly touched on a variety of topics ranging from COVID-19 and the state's economy.
Kelly said she would urge Kansas lawmakers to take action to expand recent executive orders she established as COVID-19 surged in the state due to the omicron variant.
Last week, Kelly issued a 15-day COVID-19 disaster declaration to assist hospitals and nursing homes in the state.
The two orders add flexibility for who's allowed to help those in the medical field.
"It will be imperative that we work together to quickly extend my orders through legislation to help our nursing homes and our hospitals," Kelly said Tuesday night.
According to Kelly, the state's budget also recorded the highest surplus to its budget in 40 years.
Because of this, Kansans who filed taxes in 2021 will get a $250 rebate. Married couples will receive $500.
Kelly first proposed the rebate in December.
"That's money back in your pocket to pay for child care, to take your family on a mini-vacation or to buy groceries," Kelly said.
As lawmakers begin to meet in Topeka, Kelly says she's calling on legislators to work together to eliminate a tax on groceries.
"I've called on the legislature to send a bill to my desk to end this tax, once and for all," she said. "It will save Kansas families hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars a year."
Kelly said that her budget proposed for this year also includes a total freeze on increase to in-state tuition for students.
To end her address, Kelly took the time to pay tribute to Buck O'Neil, who was recently elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
"Just a few weeks ago, we learned that Buck was, posthumously, voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame to, finally, be honored alongside the game's very best," Kelly said. "Long overdue in my opinion, and it's a shame he wasn't alive to see it."
Kansas republicans fired back at Kelly after her speech calling it a "desperate election-year transformation."
Among the criticism, the Kansas GOP slammed Kelly for COVID-19 mitigation efforts used at the beginning of the pandemic.
“After years of lockdowns, mandates, school closures and criminalizing religious worship while protecting abortion clinics, Governor Kelly has determined her path to re-election is a complete political transformation,” Shannon Pahls, the Kansas GOP Executive Director said in a statement."
The GOP even cited Kelly's veto of legislation that would've banned transgender athletes from participating in girls' and women's sports in the state, among others.