Brownback says he will push for reducing state personal income tax rate

Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday said he will push to reduce the state personal income tax rate and overhaul the school finance system.

Speaking to reporters and editors at the Lawrence Journal-World, Brownback said growing the state economy is his primary goal as he prepares for his second legislative session as governor. The 2012 session starts Jan. 9.

The state needed to be ready for a “federal storm” of budget cuts from Washington, said Brownback, a former U.S. Senator. Whoever the next president is, he said, “is going to cut.”

Brownback, a Republican, said he wants to lower the state’s individual income tax rate to make it the second lowest in the region, behind Colorado. Kansas now has the second highest personal income tax rate in relation to neighboring states.

He predicted the lowered tax rates would spur economic growth, which then should be plowed back into more tax cuts. At this point, he said, he would not propose lowering the state corporate income tax.

Brownback also reiterated his desire to revamp the school finance formula, saying the current funding system was under constant legal challenge. General concepts of his plan include allowing more local property tax funding of schools, which has raised concerns about increasing the disparity between rich and poor districts.

But he backed off a key part of his proposal, saying he will not recommend allowing counties to raise sales taxes for schools. He said there had been a lot of opposition to that idea. Details of his school funding method are scheduled to be released today. (Wed)

On other issues, Brownback:

• Said the budget proposal he will send to legislators will recommend resumption of state funding of the Lawrence office of the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services.

The city and county picked up the lease costs of the local SRS office after Brownback and SRS Secretary Robert Siedlecki Jr. proposed closing nine offices, including the one in Lawrence.

That closure proposal prompted a public outcry from local officials who said closing the Lawrence office would have created havoc in the community and disrupted services to thousands of needy people.

Later, Siedlecki agreed to a plan for city of Lawrence and Douglas County taxpayers to pay the rent for the SRS building, and he would pursue legislative approval to fund the office in future years.

Asked if he would have done anything differently during the controversy, Brownback said he probably should have asked for advice from former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat. Brownback said Sebelius closed numerous SRS offices without any controversy.

• Called for construction of the controversial, $150 million South Lawrence Trafficway. “This one has got to get done. It is going to get done,” he said.

• Said he planned to revisit his veto of state funding of the Kansas Arts Commission but refused to elaborate. Brownback’s veto of funds made Kansas the only state to not fund the arts and cost Kansas $1.2 million in federal matching dollars.

• Voiced support for a study commission’s recommendation to replace the state’s traditional pension plan for a 401(k)-like plan for new public employees hired after July 1, 2013.

• ­­Continued his support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry for the Republican nomination for president. “He has a great track record,” Brownback said. He said Republican voters have become more conservative and they are “anxious to scared” about the future of the country.

By Scott Rothschild

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