Brownback to national viewers: ‘We’re seeking tax refugees’

Gov. Brownback talks Kansas tax policy on Bloomberg Thursday.

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback is on a two-day national media blitz in New York promoting the state’s new lower income tax rates.

“We’re seeking tax refugees,” Brownback told Bloomberg TV in an interview Thursday morning. “So anybody watching this show, whether you’re in New York or anywhere, come to Kansas.”

Brownback’s staff said he is also making appearances on Varney & Co. on the Fox Business channel this morning, Your World with Neil Cavuto on Fox News at 3 p.m. Central, Lou Dobbs Tonight on the Fox Business channel at 6 p.m. and America’s Newsroom on Fox at 8:10 a.m. Friday.

“I want to attract people and human capital into the state,” Brownback said in the Bloomberg interview.

The governor, whose trip is paid for by taxpayers, is also taping an interview expected to air later on Yahoo! News, and he is conducting interviews with the Wall Street Journal, Brownback spokeswoman Sara Arif said Thursday.

“He’s really promoting our tax policy,” she said.

Brownback’s plug for Kansas’ new tax environment follows the income tax rate reductions he signed into law last year that eliminated income taxes for most small businesses and farms and lowered rates for individual income taxpayers. It also comes as lawmakers grapple this year with how to adjust state spending and increase other revenue streams to prevent big budget deficits projected as the result of the tax cuts.

Brownback’s follow-up tax cut plan would extend a temporary six-tenths of a cent sales tax due to expire in July and eliminate the popular mortgage interest deduction, a move he admits is a tough sell. After an additional individual income tax rate reduction, the plan would channel any state revenue growth beyond 4 percent to drive down rates even more.

Eventually, Brownback wants to eliminate state income taxes.

A Senate committee jettisoned Brownback’s proposal to also eliminate the real estate property tax deduction. The altered plan is awaiting debate in the Senate, where conservative Republicans have a majority.

Meanwhile, House leaders say they don’t think there’s support to extend the elevated sales tax rate, and they are discussing alternative proposals that will likely include major spending cuts.

Democrats call the plan a tax hike because it extends the elevated sales tax, and it takes the valuable mortgage interest deduction away from Kansans.

Wichita Democratic Rep. Jim Ward said Kansas tax policy may not be as rosy as Brownback suggests.

“Governor, phone home,” Ward said. “There’s a $4 billion hole in your tax plan, schools are struggling and you’re trying to shift the burden onto working taxpayers. Get back home and get to work.”

The media tour Thursday and Friday comes after Brownback’s planned interviews with national media at the National Governor’s Association in Washington in late February were postponed as he ┬áreturned to Kansas to oversee response to two major snowstorms that blanketed the state. Brownback took a commercial flight to New York with his spokeswoman Sherriene Jones-Sontag and special assistant Matt Goddard, his staff said.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has recently been discussed as a potential 2016 presidential candidate after injecting himself into the national immigration reform debate, and Brownback’s response to questions about national politics suggest he is also watching the national scene.

“You don’t change America by changing Washington,” Brownback said. “You change America by changing states.”

Brownback, who ran for President briefly in 2008, has downplayed any suggestion that he is trying to set the stage for another White House bid.

When Varney & Co. host Stuart Varney suggested Brownback has “national office in view along in the distant horizon,” Brownback again shrugged it off.

“I’ve got state office in view in Kansas,” he said. “I have five children, my wife and I do.”