by Anne Meyer & Associated Press
KWCH 12 Eyewitness News
9:20 PM CST, January 15, 2013
Governor Sam Brownback started to lay out his plan for the new legislative session during his State of the State speech Tuesday night.
Brownback is calling for a fresh round of aggressive cuts in Kansas income taxes and changes in the state Constitution to rein in the judiciary.
Brownback reaffirmed in his State of the State address that his goal is to eventually eliminate income taxes. But his plan for further reductions is tied to keeping the state sales tax at its current rate, rather letting it drop in July as previously planned.
"We are already getting some indications that businesses are moving to Kansas since we already lowered the income tax last year," said Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) "He wants to balance the budget and grow jobs in Kansas."
"I am very concerned, he advocated to eliminate 40% of the revenue," said Representative Jim Ward (D-Wichita). "Both of these things will happen, schools will be hurt more and property taxes are forced up."
Brownback's speech came just days after a three-member panel of trial judges ruled the state must boost its annual aid to public schools by at least $440 million.
He endorsed proposed constitutional amendments on education funding and the selection of judges for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. Both would require Kansas voters to approve changing the constitution.
Brownback also wants to spend $12 million to help Kansas elementary school students who struggle with reading. The governor outlined three-part initiative called Kansas Reads to Succeed.
Besides the funding 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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