Democrat vying to be Kansas governor says he would boost school aid, postpone future tax cuts


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WICHITA, Kansas — The presumed Democratic nominee for Kansas governor said Monday that if elected, he will pursue a big increase in education spending and a postponement of scheduled income tax cuts in an effort to improve the state economy.

Kansas House Minority Leader Paul Davis said he would freeze income tax policies in place where they were in January 2015, when he would take office if elected. The owners of 191,000 businesses would still be exempt from paying personal income taxes, but cuts in the state's top income tax rate already scheduled for the next four years would be blocked, as would a myriad of other changes.

Davis also said the state needs to boost education spending to levels promised before the state began to feel the effects of the Great Recession in 2008. While he didn't outline specific amounts, such an increase would amount to at least several hundred million dollars a year.

Brownback's campaign manager, Mark Dugan, said Davis is proposing a tax increase — a characterization that Davis rejected.

Davis outlined what he is calling his economic vision on the same day the state Department of Revenue announced that June tax collections fell a surprising $28 million short of expectations — making a total shortfall of $338 million over the past three months. The revenue drop-offs have sparked a debate over whether the income tax cuts were more generous than advertised — though Brownback's administration blames them on federal fiscal policies.

"Kansas is in a crisis of Sam Brownback's making, and it will not be fixed overnight," Davis said during a news conference at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita. "Our first job is to stop the bleeding."

Davis said boosting aid to public schools will be at the top of his agenda as governor, and before his event in Wichita, he had a news conference at Piper High School in Kansas City, Kansas. He and other Democrats contend that the income tax cuts enacted in 2012 and 2013 jeopardize future spending on schools.

"Strong schools are the very foundation of a strong economy," he said at the Wichita event.

Brownback insists that the tax cuts are creating jobs and that economic growth will sustain schools and state programs in the future.

Dugan issued a statement saying that in 12 years as a legislator, Davis has repeatedly supported increases in sales and income taxes. Davis backed a sales tax increase in 2010 and opposed the income tax cuts in 2012 and 2013. Dugan also cited other votes in 2003 and 2004.

"His plan unveiled today is more of the same," Dugan said.

Davis defended the sales tax increase in 2010 as necessary to stabilize the budget during the recession and prevent greater education cuts. Like other Democrats, he views the 2012 and 2013 income tax cuts as reckless and benefiting wealthy Kansans most.

Davis' campaign announced that former Lt. Govs. Gary Sherrer and John Moore will serve as senior economic advisers to their campaign. Sherrer served as lieutenant governor from 1996 to 2003 as a Republican, and Moore held the office as a Democrat from 2003 to 2007. Both were state commerce secretaries with extensive business careers.

Davis is the only Democratic candidate running for governor. In the Aug. 5 Republican primary, Brownback faces Jennifer Winn, the owner of a Wichita landscaping business.


Online:

Davis campaign: http://www.davisforkansas.com/

Brownback re-election campaign: http://www.brownback.com/


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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