Governor Sam Brownback was at the Kansas State Fair as part of Governor’s Day and spoke at the Hutchinson/Reno County Chamber of Commerce breakfast.
He spoke of changing what was a deficit in the state to now a surplus.
He talked about some of the changes made during the last legislative session including the pension system. He told the gathering that the way it was set up was simply not sustainable. He says the state was the least funded in the country, second only to Illinois. He says they went to a cash balance system for new employees in the next two years. He says that’s sustainable with what they put in, the state puts in with a guaranteed rate of return of 5%. He called that a “great benefit.”
He also talked about the changes they made in the Medicaid system in the state and says with the changes came some added benefits including dental. He says under the old system, for every one person added, one would be taken off. He says they decided to go to an integrated care system that will have a growth rate that we can sustain. He says with the new system, they were able to add dental and geriatric services. He says this way, we’re able to care for everyone and add services.
The Governor also showed concern for the declining population in the state saying we are loosing residents to all the surrounding states including Nebraska and Missouri. He says job growth in the surrounding states have been around 3%, while Kansas is at .4%.
Brownback says we need jobs to bring people back to the state. He says in the past they have spent government dollars and increased K through 12 spending and neither created jobs. So they looked at taxes and says cutting the income tax seemed the best model with tax cuts, but also eliminate income tax for owners of nearly 200,000 companies in Kansas. He says they also took the top rate from 6.45% to 4.9.
Brownback acknowledged again Thursday morning that the cuts will decrease state revenues in the short-term, but believes it will improve the economy and create jobs and hopes that will attract people back to Kansas. He says people will go where the jobs are.
As we told you earlier this week, Democrats contend the tax cuts will hurt middle and lower income residents and shift the tax burden. They say it will raise taxes on working and middle class citizens. They also argue that it will not pay for itself. They site the non-partisan Kansas Legislative Research Department, saying Brownback’s tax plan will create a $2.5 billion shortfall over the next six years.
Brownback also acknowledged Mike O’Neal, the outgoing House Speaker from Hutchinson. He’s retiring from the job and the Governor acknowledged working with him in the conservative legislature.
Governor Brownback also toured the Hutchinson Career and Technical Education Academy on the Hutchinson High School campus Thursday.
The HCTEA is one of the longest-standing career and technical education programs that bridges K-12 and high education.
Brownback met with students, staff and administrators for both Hutchinson Public Schools and Hutchinson Community College at the Hutchinson Career and Technical Education Academy.
The academy provides career path training, including several of the certificate programs that will benefit from Senate Bill 155, which allows Kansas high school students can get their tuition paid for if they take qualified technical courses offered at Kansas technical and community colleges
Superintendent Dr. Shelly Kiblinger told the governor the USD 308 and HCC programming is a long-term example of how cooperation can work for the students, employers and community. Many students begin their classwork in high school and continue it at HCC.
The program also is available to area public and private high school students with some students coming from as far away as Maize taking HCTEA classes in 2012-13.