TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Tonight is the state’s 135th State of the State address when the governor addresses the state’s progress over the last year and agendas for the future.
KSN sat down with Gov. Sam Brownback ahead of his speech to learn how he thinks the last year has gone and what he has planned for the rest of his term.
With just two years left to go, KSN asked Brownback what grade he would give himself for his work as governor.
“I don’t know what kind of grade to give myself and individuals will give me whatever grade they choose,” Brownback said. “I do know we’ve had major accomplishments in some significant areas.”
KSN asked Brownback what legacy he hopes to leave behind when he leaves office.
To that, Brownback looked to the successes he believes the state has seen in key areas like KPERS, water issues and public safety.
But the disappointment has been the lack of revenue coming into Kansas, he said.
When KSN asked Gov. Brownback if he will stand by his tax breaks, he stood by his policy, maintaining his belief that keeping regulation and taxes off small businesses leads to growth.
The state has seen most of that growth in urban areas, he said.
“Well, declining revenues have been sales tax and that’s primarily driven by oil and agriculture prices because our urban areas have been producing more sales tax but our rural areas have not,” Brownback said.
A more moderate group of legislators headed back to session on Monday and some believe this moderate team could be a setback for initiatives led by Brownback like his 2012 business tax cuts.
KSN asked the governor if the new legislative makeup will change how he approaches policies.
“It does change your approach, but it’s something we can work with. I’m looking forward to working with the new faces,” Brownback said. “We’ll have a third of the faces that are going to be new in the legislature. It is a huge number of new legislators.”
The big elephant in the room that could divide legislators is the state’s school funding crisis.
This year, Brownback will focus on education with an emphasis on performance, he said.
“We want to see these students be able to read. We want to see them when they graduate get a decent act score to get into a Kansas college,” Brownback said.
Many teachers around the state don’t feel their needs are being addressed, tossing around words like “overworked” and “underpaid.”
The governor’s block grant bill aimed to give districts around Kansas a single block of funding but many educators have since fought against it, although Brownback maintains that the state has seen a 10 percent increase in school funding since he took office.
KSN asked Gov. Brownback how he might fill the school budget hole in 2017.
The solution, he said, isn’t tossing out his tax breaks.
“We’re still a major oil and agriculture state so my hope is that now we’re starting to see those stabilize and start to pick up; the “Trump bump,” I believe is real; a lot of it is attitude. People’s attitude has improved and my hope is we can move on forward from this point,” Brownback said.