Lecompton Gov. Sam Brownback's administration has started studying proposals for overhauling the Kansas tax system with a goal of lowering income taxes, and he expects a proposal to emerge by the end of the year, the governor said Friday.
Brownback has said repeatedly that he thinks reducing income taxes will spark economic growth, keep residents from leaving and lure people from outside the state.
"I think there's a combination of things that need to be looked at, but to me that the tax that's one of the most sensitive for economic growth is the state income tax," the governor said after an event in Lecompton, about 20 miles east of Topeka. "To look at the total picture is what we want to do, with an eye toward getting the state income tax down."
Brownback said Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan and Commerce Secretary Pat George, both former legislators, are involved in the discussion, but he said he's going to bring "leading thinkers" on tax issues from both Kansas and around nation into it. He said he's not sure whether he'll establish a formal study commission, and he encouraged legislative leaders to consider their own study this summer and fall.
The governor said state officials see Kansas residents migrating to states with lower income taxes or, like Texas, no income tax, and Kansas gains residents from higher-tax states.
This year lawmakers approved Brownback's plan to declare 50 of the state's 105 counties "Rural Enterprise Zones" and exempt anyone who moves into them from outside Kansas from state income taxes from 2012 through 2016.
But some legislators, particularly conservative Republicans, wanted to go further. The House passed a plan this year to lower income taxes whenever state revenues grow, but the idea stalled in committee in the Senate.
Democrats have been skeptical of such efforts, noting that the budget approved by legislators this year cuts general state aid to public schools by 5.6 percent, or $232 per student, as Brownback had proposed. Also, the state cut its overall spending about 6 percent for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"We need to look at restoring some of the very, deep painful cuts we have made," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat.