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Kan. Senate Panel Reviewing Governor's Tax Plan

By JOHN HANNA

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) â¿¿ Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan told legislators Tuesday that Kansas must further reduce individual income tax rates to remain economically competitive, but he faced questions about whether it's fair to the poor to offset those cuts by scrapping deductions for homeowners and raising additional sales tax revenues.

The Republican-dominated Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee opened hearings on tax proposals from conservative GOP Gov. Sam Brownback, expanding two planned days of testimony to three almost immediately so members would have more time to question Jordan. Brownback wants to phase in additional cuts in individual income tax rates over three years, following up on aggressive income tax cuts last year.

But to keep the budget stable, he also wants to eliminate popular income tax deductions for the interest on home mortgages and residential property taxes. He also wants to keep the state's sales tax at its current 6.3 percent rate, rather than dropping it to 5.7 percent in July as dictated by a budget-balancing measure enacted three years ago.

Jordan said the governor's goal is to phase out individual income taxes. Republican governors and legislators in other states, including Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma, also are talking about slashing state income taxes in the wake of Kansas' cuts last year. Leaders in all the states say they believe it would spur their economies.

"The goal of the tax policy the governor is working on is, let's grow the Kansas economy," Jordan said. "The competitiveness has grown around the country."

But Brownback's plan is drawing criticism from the Washington-based Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a nonpartisan research group. Before hearings started Tuesday, the institute provided The Associated Press with an analysis showing that with the sales tax provision, the plan would boost taxes slightly for Kansans earning less than $20,000 a year while giving the most relief to Kansans earning more than $180,000.

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