Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback pushes small-business agenda

08/15/2014 12:51 PM

08/16/2014 7:04 AM

Gov. Sam Brownback has repeatedly highlighted the importance of small-business growth at campaign events across this state this week.

Small business is at the center of Brownback’s re-election platform.

“I am for big business, too. But if you want to expand your economy, you’ve got to get small business growing,” Brownback told a crowd of supporters at Jackson’s Greenhouse in Topeka on Friday, as he accepted an endorsement from the National Federation of Independent Business.

Brownback’s overhaul of the state’s tax code included an exemption from paying any income tax for some types of limited liability corporations, meaning that small businesses – if they file as LLCs – may not have to pay any tax on their profits.

Dave Jackson, the greenhouse proprietor and a former Republican state senator, said that Brownback’s tax policies have enabled his greenhouse to expand and will allow him to bring on two more employees.

Dan Murray, state director for the NFIB, said the choice to endorse Brownback was easy for the organization, which represents small businesses across the country, including 4,200 in Kansas.

“Gov. Brownback has a long history of supporting small business going back to his days in Congress,” Murray said. “And then his track record as governor has been very pro-small-business.”

Brownback’s Democratic opponent, House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, also picked up two endorsements this week, both from the public sector, announcing support from the Fraternal Order of Police and Kansas State Firefighters PAC. Both organizations cited Davis’ support for investment in public safety and the state pension system.

At the Topeka event, Brownback touted a concept of “Urban Opportunity Zones” that would benefit high poverty areas in Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City, Kan. The idea would be loosely modeled on Rural Opportunity Zones, a program created during the governor’s first term, which was meant to attract people to small towns that were losing populations.

However, the idea seems more of a broad concept at this point than a firm plan.

“There’s just a lot of possibilities,” said John Milburn, Brownback’s campaign spokesman.

“We’ve talked about an education component of some sort to help folks there, and various investments in small business to help these areas,” Milburn said. “That’s kind of the framework. We don’t really have any meat on those bones.”

There could also be an effort to provide affordable housing, Milburn said.

The governor said his team was working on a proposal.

“You create an economic opportunity if you move here,” Brownback said of the idea. “Our Rural Opportunity Zones, half the people using are healthcare or education. … So it’s getting educated individuals into an area, and we hope, creating growth.”

Chris Pumpelly, spokesman for the Davis campaign, criticized the idea for lacking specificity.

“Serious question: What is the program going to do? Give tax breaks or tuition reimbursement for people who move to urban areas?” Pumpelly asked in an email.

“What is the goal? It’s only a name as far as I can see.”

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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