TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback urged Kansas small business owners Wednesday to make a special effort to hire people with disabilities and individuals with a criminal record.
He told a gathering among members of the National Federation of Independent Business that owners with a handful of employees were more likely to give these people a chance than big corporations burdened with a personnel bureaucracy.
“If you can help them, just give another look there,” Brownback said.
The Republican governor heaped praise on the 2012 tax reform bill he signed into law that repealed the state income tax on owners of more than 330,000 businesses in Kansas. The business component of that bill represented approximately 30 percent of revenue surrendered by the state. The bulk of the cut reflected reduction in the individual income tax rates.
Democrats and some Republicans have expressed concern about the state’s recent revenue shortfalls and deficits. They also share anxiety with the 0.5-percent job growth in Kansas during 2015. During the governor’s 2014 re-election campaign, he vowed to generate 25,000 new Kansas jobs in each of the final four years of his administration.
Brownback told NFIB members that reporters failed to properly explain success of the state’s tax overhaul. Criticism of the decision to eliminate income tax paid by owners of Kansas businesses is misplaced, he said.
“This was the piece that by far showed the greatest potential to create jobs,” he said. “This is the best tax policy in America for small business.”
Evidence of the tax policy’s positive influence can be found in the latest “Rich States, Poor States” analysis published by the American Legislative Exchange Council, the governor said. The assessment features an economic competitiveness index produced by ALEC and Arthur Laffer, the advocate of supply-side economics who was hired for $75,000 as a tax consultant by the Brownback administration.
He said the goal upon winning election as governor in 2010 was to lower the state’s income tax, expand the state’s economy, hold down growth in the state’s budget while investing in core government services and pull more businesses in the Kansas City area into Kansas than were lost to Missouri.
“This is the basic philosophy of what we’re trying to get done in Kansas,” Brownback said.
The governor touched up on his work to privatize Medicaid, maintain adequate funding of K-12 public schools and to strengthen the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. Medicaid now is operated by three private insurance companies. The state’s school finance formula was repealed and funding frozen. The state borrowed $1 billion in an attempt to improve the bottom line of KPERS.
He said the state’s 3.9 percent unemployment rate in December was significant despite problems in the aviation, agriculture, and oil and gas sectors. He said it would “hard” to maintain that relatively low rate in the future.