Brownback Gives Kansas State of State Address

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) Gov. Sam Brownback wants Kansas lawmakers to cut individual income taxes even further.

In the prepared text of his State of the State speech Tuesday night, Brownback also says his ultimate goal is abolishing the state’s individual income tax altogether.

For now, the Republican governor said he wants to lower the top rate on individual income taxes to 3.5 percent from the current 4.9 percent. For low-income families, Brownback wants the rate reduced to 1.9 percent from the current 3 percent.

The current rates were adopted in 2012 and took effect Jan. 1. The state also exempted the owners of 191,000 businesses from income taxes.

The reductions have created a projected revenue shortfall of $267 million for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

Gov. Sam Brownback wants to spend $12 million to help Kansas elementary school students who struggle with reading.

In the prepared version of his State of the State address Tuesday night, the governor outlined three-part initiative called Kansas Reads to Succeed.

Besides the funding to for programs to help struggling readers, Brownback is also proposing to require third-graders to demonstrate an ability to read as a condition of being promoted.

Additional incentives would be provided to elementary schools that do the best at boosting fourth-grade reading scores.

Brownback says 29 percent of Kansas fourth-graders can’t read at a basic level. The governor says promoting elementary school pupils who can’t read is “irresponsible and cruel.”

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Gov. Sam Brownback wants to change the way the state’s top judges are chosen and to take courts out of school funding.

In the prepared text of his State of the State address Tuesday night, Brownback cited last week’s decision by a panel of trial judges that held the state’s school finance formula unconstitutional.

The Republican governor said he would support direct election of judges to the Kansas Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. He would also back a version of the federal system, in which lawmakers confirm top judicial appointments.

Brownback also wants to change the Kansas Constitution to give the Legislature sole power to determine how much money is needed to provide a “suitable” education.

Both changes would require Kansas voters to amend the state Constitution.