Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Tax reform, expanded gambling urged in State of Commonwealth address

This from the Courier-Journal:
Gov. Steve Beshear urged state lawmakers Tuesday night to tackle tax reform and expanded gambling to raise new revenue for such priority areas as education and health care. “We need more resources to make needed investments in our future,” Beshear told a joint session of the General Assembly in his seventh State of the Commonwealth address. “... We need to take bold, decisive action to build a healthier, more educated and better-trained population.”
The message was similar to the one he had for lawmakers a year ago — when he and the General Assembly agreed on pension reform but took no significant step on tax reform. But Beshear’s tone was different this year — emphasizing not the bleak state revenue outlook but the cooperation that made last year’s session a success.

And he pleaded with lawmakers to carry on with a bipartisan outlook. “In Washington, you find leaders focused on keeping power, not helping people,” Beshear said. “... My friends, we must resolve not to let that happen here in Kentucky.”

But Beshear’s speech on the opening day of the 2014 session came after leaders of the Republican-controlled Senate and Democratic-controlled House filed bills some consider to be partisan priorities.
Moreover, some advocates for tax reform have complained that Beshear did not press that priority during the past year. And this year will be his fourth try at passing a measure to legalize expanded gambling.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he appreciated the tone of Beshear’s speech but needed more specifics.

“We have an interest in seeing a competitive tax code that is business friendly and expands the base. Again, we’re looking for the details,” Stivers said.

He added that he did not know the outlook for a gambling amendment.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, noted that Stivers had not declared a gambling amendment “dead on arrival” as former Senate President David Williams once did. Stumbo said he believes there is “a way forward” on the issue.

Beshear spoke for 49 minutes and was interrupted by applause about 40 times.

He made the case that he and the General Assembly had managed to make some progress in the past six years in education and health care despite being forced to make repeated budget cuts.

“But in balancing our budgets during the recession, we were sometimes forced to cut far too deeply, decimating many programs and services that Kentuckians desperately need,” Beshear said. “We cannot continue making progress by paying teachers less than they deserve, by ignoring needs like textbooks and technology, by delaying research into innovative energy production, by pricing college out of reach.”

Beshear said he will propose a specific tax reform plan this month. He gave few clues as to what it might include, though he did say part of it will be an endorsement of the local-option sales tax — a priority of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

“We need to revamp laws governing what and how we tax in order to improve our economic competitiveness, to reduce assessments that create an unlevel playing field for existing Kentucky businesses, and to treat our working families more fairly,” the governor said.

On Jan. 21, he may provide more details when he delivers his budget address. And Beshear said if lawmakers shun tax reform, the 2014-16 budget he will propose that day will still include some restoration of past cuts.

“I am determined to find money to reinvest in education ... even if I have to make harmful cuts in other areas to do so,” Beshear said.

He also said he will ask legislators “to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot related to expanded gaming. There’s no reason to deny the people of Kentucky an opportunity to vote — up or down — on this issue.”

Beshear said Kentuckians want to vote on the amendment, “and we should let them decide whether to continue allowing Kentucky tax money to flow across our borders or to keep it here at home.“
He also spoke about health care, saying “Kentucky ranks among the worst, if not the worst, in every major health category from smoking to cancer deaths, preventable hospitalizations, cardiovascular and cardiac heart disease and diabetes.”

He said those rankings are “why I seized the historic opportunity created by the federal government to address Kentucky’s poor health in a transformative way. We expanded Medicaid and, to link Kentuckians to private insurance, created a state-based health benefits exchange.”

Beshear said he also will push a statewide “smoke-free” law and a measure to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. And he said in the next few weeks he will “unveil a new initiative that will intensify our efforts,” including goals and strategies to cut Kentucky’s smoking rate 10 percent by 2018.


Anonymous said...

I'd be shocked if expanded gambling or tax reform actually occurs this session. Nevermind the fact that education in this state is suffering due to lack of funding. Priorities, I guess.

Question: Any truth to the rumor that FCPS Board Member Doug Barnett is running for the State House? I hope not because I think that would be a huge loss for FCPS. I've found him to be a voice for those of us that have no voice and his willingness to tackle issues in areas like special ed, transportation and demanding ethics and accountability have been refreshing to this FCPS employee.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, gambling is the answer - really logical long term solution. Seems like I remember hearing all the same arguments about three decades ago for the lottery as well as the rosy promises of how it was going to bring buckets of revenue for funding education. If they do legalize gambling be sure to keep any state proceeds from falling in to that black hole called the general fund.

Wonder if neighboring states legalized prostitution or cocaine if we would hear about how we needed to follow suit in order to stop KY folks from spending their funds across the state border?

Instead of worrying about your next election, do your freak'in legislative job and adopt contemporary tax codes that don't give away more money in tax breaks than it collects as is the case with current system.

Richard Day said...

Doug says,

For the record, I'm over in the 77th House District where Jesse Crenshaw has announced he will not run again. A lot of people in the community and in that particular district have approached me about seeking the seat. I am considering it, but I am nowhere close to making a decision about it.

There are a lot of things to consider on family and community service levels. I also really enjoy serving on the Fayette County School Board because I think I'm making a difference within the district for students, parents and staff. I enjoy visiting our schools, talking to parents and FCPS staff, engaging our teachers and interacting with the kids. I've learned a lot along the way and it has been rewarding. That's a lot to walk away from.

Either way, I'm making a decision by January 26.