Area legislators respond to address

By The Mercury

Area lawmakers had mixed reactions to a legislative agenda laid out Tuesday by Gov. Sam Brownback that included reductions in the income tax, an amendment clarifying that the Legislature has the power to determine state aid to schools, and changing the system by which judges are appointed.

Sen. Tom Hawk, a Democrat and former House member, said he had “more concerns than positives,” although he acknowledged liking some aspects.

“The philosophy of making government more efficient, I’m always in favor of that,” Hawk said. He termed as “clever” a Brownback proposal to combine the turnpike and highway departments into a single entity.

But Hawk, a former school administrator, said he was concerned about the impact of continued reductions to the state income tax on public education. “That’s going to put us in a financial bind and likely raise property taxes,” he said.

And while conceding that the governor probably has enough legislative support to change the system for selection of judges, he said he didn’t like “the notion that if the court system doesn’t go along with the legislature, we’re going to let the governor appoint.”

State Rep. Tom Phillips echoed some of Hawk’s concerns, but overall termed it “a darn good speech” in which Brownback “hit all the right points focused on lower taxes, family, job growth.”

Phillips, too, voiced concern about the elimination of the state income tax, saying he needed to see “the specifics on impact on government programs and services.” He said he also wanted to see “what the intent is” of the proposed amendment declaring that only the legislature has the power to set state spending levels on public education.

New State Rep. Ron Highland, a Wamego Republican, termed Brownback’s agenda “very aggressive,” adding that “in general, I don’t see the bombshells.” He said the pro-growth and the lower tax initiatives “are things all of us can support.”

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