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Kan. Senate votes expand rural growth progr

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Kansas senators have voted to expand a rural growth program aimed at helping counties with declining populations attract new residents.

The 28-12 vote Wednesday would expand the Rural Opportunity Zone program from its current 50 counties to 73 counties. The measure now goes to the House for consideration.

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback initiated the program in 2011 to help counties that experienced population declines of 10 percent or more between 2000 and 2010. The program exempts new residents from income taxes for five years and helps with the repayment of student loans.

Supporters say the program gives rural counties a tool for stabilizing their populations. Critics argue they need more information on whether the program is working.