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Brownback stresses efforts to fight federal laws

August 18, 2014

WICHTA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback campaigned Monday on his administration’s efforts to fight against what he calls federal government overreach.

The Republican governor found a friendly audience for his re-election pitch at the Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association convention in Wichita. He made his case again later at a news conference surrounded by his supporters.

Brownback outlined several fronts where Kansas is pushing back against the federal government: the listing of the prairie chicken as a threatened species, a proposal to expand the definition of waters of the United States, and federal pollution regulations on coal as well as the federal health care reform law.

The conservative governor is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Paul Davis because of concerns about whether tax cuts his administration delivered are boosting the economy or potentially ruining the state’s finances. The governor and his supporters have argued that his policies — particularly aggressive personal income tax cuts — have helped to create nearly 55,000 new private-sector jobs since he took office in January 2011. The Legislature’s nonpartisan research staff issued a new budget forecast earlier this month predicting a $238 million budget shortfall by July 2016 and the state’s credit rating has been downgraded.

In the aviation dependent community of Wichita, Brownback also trotted out an unfolding proposal for an “urban opportunity zone” that would be modeled similar to “rural opportunity zones” that aim to draw people to rural Kansas communities with incentives such as no income taxes and student loan repayments. He said his administration is still developing the details of the urban counterpart, which would likely be confined to Wichita, Topeka and Kansas City, Kansas.

The governor also vowed to continue the fight against the health care reform law, saying “we don’t need that expansion in the state of Kansas.”

On Monday, he recounted steps the state is taking to fight the listing of the lesser prairie chicken, including the filing of a lawsuit and legislation intended to give the state sole regulatory authority over its protection. He said prairie chicken numbers are up 20 percent in Kansas due to all the rainfall the state has received this season.

The governor also talked about efforts to counter an Environmental Protection Agency proposal to expand the definition of waters of the United States, which he claims would encompass ponds and puddles.

“We are pushing back aggressively,” he said

Brownback says water is “inherently a state issue,” and he wants the federal government to withdraw its proposed rule.

Another area of contention is federal pollution rules over coal.

The governor said he has given the secretary of the health and environment authority to regulate the industry, and the state has approved $1.8 billion for a coal-fired plant in Holcomb.

In a wide-ranging speech, Brownback defended his plan to cut taxes for businesses and his reform of the public employee pension system, among other issues.

He said that often change is made first in the states rather than the federal government and insisted his policies for Kansas are not “experimental” as his critics have charged.

“I am not going to be bashful about pushing back,” he said.

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