Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s call in his State of the State speech for phasing out the state income tax had a high-profile advocate in the audience.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington, D.C.-based anti-tax group, met with Brownback and House and Senate leadership before the speech in Topeka Tuesday night.
Kansas could be a leader in the zero income tax policy fight, Norquist said, thanks to the governor, as well as the House and Senate, committed to “reforming some of the mistakes of the last several decades.”
Only Texas has completely phased out its state income tax, which Brownback would like to see happen in Kansas in the next few years.
“Already other states are looking at Kansas,” he said, “and the agenda that Kansas has legislatively is one that could pass in each of the 25 red states.”
Norquist was in Topeka on Wednesday to address the Kansas Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, a group seeking to establish a state program that would allow ag businesses to hire undocumented workers who could legally stay in the state.
Ag leaders have long said that dairies, feedlots and large farms are in desperate need of workers and they fear that any Arizona-style anti-immigration laws would further hurt the labor force. The coalition includes the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Kansas Farm Bureau, commodity groups and immigration advocates.
Norquist urged the 100 attending the breakfast meeting to speak up in favor of immigration reform because it reflects a core principal of the Republican Party. Former Presidents Reagan and both Bush administrations were pro-immigration, he said, and he had hoped to work on the issue if GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney had won.
Those voices of the anti-immigrant movement are “very few but very loud,” Norquist said, and that issue “sadly and dishonestly” became identified with conservatives. Lead the “right way,” he said, which means respecting immigrants and asking for their vote.
“You can’t ask for somebody’s vote while either insulting or threatening them, their friends and their neighbors,” he said.
Norquist urged the legislators to lead the way on immigration with a plan that is pro-business, pro-growth and offers respect for immigrants. Already, Utah has a law that creates a way for undocumented workers to stay in the state legally and that could be a model for Kansas, he said.