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Governor Delivers “State of the State”

Associated Press - January 10, 2017 9:26 pm

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is calling on legislators to pass school choice measures and reiterating his support for merit pay for teachers.

Brownback expressed his support for initiatives favored by fellow conservatives in his annual State of the State address Tuesday evening. But he provided few details.

He called for creating more competition in education and for expanding a program in which poor students can receive scholarships to attend private schools. The state gives an income tax break to corporations that contribute to scholarship funds.

Brownback also said the state should create a program for grading schools.

But lobbyist Mark Desetti of the Kansas National Education Association teachers union said Brownback is pushing ideas that have failed in other states. He said the governor is “behind the curve.”

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8:15 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback is proposing to merge the Kansas securities commissioner’s office with the state Insurance Department.

Brownback hinted at the plan Tuesday night in his State of the State address when briefly discussing the budget efficiencies he will pursue. The Republican governor questioned whether the state needs separate offices to regulate insurance and securities.

The governor did not provide further details.

But Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer said after the speech that the two offices will merge regulatory operations and turn over their power to prosecute fraud to the attorney general’s office.

The elected insurance commissioner has been involved in the proposal’s development. He said it makes sense because many insurance agents also sell securities.

Brownback also said in his speech that he will propose merging separate state boards regulating barbers and beauticians.

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7:45 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback says his budget proposals will include funding to start developing a new dental school in Kansas.

Brownback disclosed his plans Tuesday evening in his State of the State address. The initiative is one of several he is pursuing to train more health care providers for rural communities.

Kansas doesn’t have its own school to train dentists but the University of Missouri-Kansas City does. Brownback said his proposal is for a dental school at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.

Executive Director Kevin Robertson said in a statement that the Kansas Dental Association has taken no position on establishing a new dental school but appreciates the governor’s interest in improving dental care. He said Kansas dentists have a strong relationship with the Missouri school.

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7:25 p.m.

Democrats are pushing back against Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s assertion that Kansas is strong.

Senate Minority Anthony Hensley of Topeka said during a Tuesday evening news conference after the State of the State address that Brownback is in denial about the harm his policies have caused.

He and House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita rejected Brownback’s defense of an income tax break for more than 330,000 farmers and business owners enacted in 2012.

They blame tax cuts championed by Brownback for budget shortfalls.

Ward said Brownback’s promise to find budget efficiencies would help in the future but the financial crisis should be fixed first.

Ward didn’t say whether Democrats would support a stand-alone bill repealing the income tax break. He said it should be part of a long-term solution.

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6:40 p.m.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback says he’ll propose some “one-time measures” to help balance the state’s current budget.

Brownback wasn’t more specific Tuesday evening in speaking with reporters after his annual State of the State address. He plans to release the details of his budget proposals Wednesday.

The state faces a projected shortfall of $342 million in its current budget. Lawmakers don’t think they can raise taxes quickly enough to fill the gap before the fiscal year ends June 30.

One-time accounting moves would allow the state to avoid immediate spending cuts.

In recent weeks, legislators have talked about borrowing against the assets of a $320 million state investment fund or liquidating it altogether.

Brownback promised in his speech that his proposals will balance the budget through June 2019.

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6:20 p.m.

Gov. Sam Brownback is challenging universities in Kansas to allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree and pay only $15,000 in total costs.

Brownback issued the challenge in his annual State of the State address Tuesday evening. He said Kansas residents deserve affordable college educations.

He also said his budget proposals would finance 50 student scholarships for the first university to meet the challenge. He did not provide more details.

The least expensive state university is Fort Hays. A full-time undergraduate student from Kansas pays $2,442 in tuition and required fees. That would be $19,535 over four years.

Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine questioned whether the idea is workable and said he is concerned about lowering academic standards for an inexpensive degree. The Emporia Republican’s district includes Emporia State University.

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5:05 p.m.

The Kansas Senate’s top Democrat says Republican Gov. Sam Brownback remains “in denial” about the damage his fiscal policies have done to families and communities.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka described Brownback’s economic policies Tuesday evening as “debilitating.”

Hensley was giving the official Democratic response to the governor’s annual State of the State address.

Brownback defended an income tax break enacted in 2012 that benefits more than 330,000 farmers and business owners as a pro-growth policy. Even some Republican legislators want to repeal it to help close the state’s budget shortfalls.

Hensley called for reversing that policy and other personal income tax cuts enacted by Republican legislators in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging to stimulate the economy. The state has struggled to balance its budget since.

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5 p.m.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he will propose “modest, targeted” tax increases to help address the state’s serious budget problems.

But during his annual State of the State address Tuesday evening, the Republican governor strongly defended an income tax break that some GOP lawmakers want to end.

Brownback also told a joint session of the Republican-controlled Legislature that he will outline budget “efficiencies.”

And he cautioned lawmakers against expanding the state’s Medicaid program in line with the 2010 federal health care overhaul. President-elect Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are planning to repeal the health care law.

Kansas faces projected budget shortfalls totaling $1.1 billion through June 2019. The state has struggled to balance its budget since Republican legislators slashed personal income taxes in 2012 and 2013 at Brownback’s urging.

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