Governor talks at Wichita Metro Chamber forum

10/29/2011 12:00 AM

10/29/2011 7:10 AM

The focus was on growth Friday when Gov. Sam Brownback addressed a Wichita Metro Chamber forum at the Hyatt Regency.

One reference was obvious: Brownback and his staff want to lower Kansas tax rates, intended to kick-start economic growth.

Kansas has the highest personal, corporate and sales tax rates among surrounding states, except Nebraska, he said.

"Kansas tax rates are too high, and it's something we've got to get better," Brownback said.

The other was a surprise: Friday's addition of a 10th team to the Big 12 Conference.

"We welcomed West Virginia officially now into the Big 12," the governor said. "That's good."

Brownback jokingly took a swipe at the University of Missouri, long rumored to be defecting to the Southeastern Conference.

"Missouri. See ya," the governor said to raucous laughter from the crowd.

"I still think this is a very bad move for the University of Missouri," Brownback said. "It's a bad move for Kansas City because we're going to lose a Big 12 basketball tournament there that's a fabulous tournament."

But Missouri's departure is an opportunity for Wichita's Intrust Bank Arena to pursue the tournament, the governor said.

After the sports barbs and laughs, the governor's focus turned to what he called "one of the most significant and important" legislative sessions in recent memory.

"We've got a number of things we need to do to get growth taking place in the state of Kansas,'' Brownback said. "It's going to be a big session. We need a big session."

The tax reform goal is a rate "that is flatter, simpler, fairer," the governor said.

"We want to get that rate down, broaden the base and... produce the same amount of revenue," Brownback said

"Now, if we are successful and we create growth by having these lower rates, then I want us to be able to capture anything above 3 percent in growth to be able to write tax rates down further.

"You grow, and you get your tax revenue off of growth rather than higher tax rates."

Brownback said the state also will be a "competitor" in the regional battle for economic development, including state incentives to lure companies to Kansas.

"I think we have to fund the incentives to keep competitive in the game," he said. "In an ideal world, you wouldn't have any incentives. You'd just all compete on a business and economic basis. That's not where we are."

Brownback touted the "deal closer fund" for his Commerce Department, approved this year by the Legislature.

"And we want to fill that up with more money in that fund to close deals," he said. "We'll be aggressively in the game."

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