- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Four more Kansas counties would be added to a growing list of rural areas with special designation under a bill clearing the House.

Cherokee, Labette, Montgomery and Sumner counties would join the existing list of 73 counties identified as rural opportunity zones.

The bill advanced 123-0 on Thursday, sending it to the Senate.

Legislators created the program to boost rural growth in 2011, primarily in counties that experienced double-digit population declines during the last federal census period.

The program offers income tax exemptions for new residents moving to those counties, as well as the repayment of a portion of outstanding college loans with participation by county governments.

Program supporters say the incentives have been helpful in attracting residents and business activity.

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