The Richmond Register

Local News

January 31, 2014

Beshear putting tax reform ideas on table

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear will discuss his ideas for tax reform with some key lawmakers Monday in hopes of seeing it pass the 2014 session that is nearly one-third complete.

Beshear appointed a Blue Ribbon Tax Commission, chaired by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, which last year offered a lengthy list of recommendations that Abramson said would provide a fairer, simpler tax code that could raise more money for the state budget.

During his budget address two weeks ago before a joint session of the General Assembly, Beshear proposed a tight budget based on current revenue sources. The budget proposal makes deep cuts in some programs in order to boost funding for elementary and secondary education.

At the conclusion of the speech, Beshear said a better alternative would be to increase state revenues through tax reform or expanded gambling and promised to offer proposals on each.

On Friday, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said he expects Beshear to meet with legislative leaders some time Monday “about his tax reform proposal,” but Stumbo said he hadn’t seen any details.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he also wants to see the details of Beshear’s proposals, adding he thinks it best those details are shared with lawmakers before being made public so lawmakers can discuss it “without it being played out in the press.”

When asked Friday about next week’s meeting, Beshear’s spokeswoman, Kerri Richardson, said she couldn’t provide any details.

Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer, D-Winchester, confirmed he’d been asked to meet with the governor Monday.

“But I don’t know what’s in it,” Palmer said. Asked about the prospects for passing tax reform in the 2014 session that is roughly one-third of the way to its maximum 60-day time period, Palmer said such prospects “are probably challenging.”

The commission’s recommendations included lowering some corporate taxes while creating a new individual tax bracket and extending the sales tax to some services. Another recommendation would limit the amount of deductions on retirement income.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, served on the commission and has long advocated for tax reform. He wasn’t invited to Monday’s meeting. But he’d liked to have seen the governor try to build public support for the idea before the current legislative session.

“I’m discouraged the groundwork hasn’t been laid since the commission made its report over a year ago,” Wayne said. Doing that would provide lawmakers with information about how tax reform and presumably some extra money for the state budget can benefit lawmakers’ individual districts, he said.

Stumbo seemed reluctant to sign on to some of the commission recommendations about lowering corporate taxes.

“I don’t know why you want to give more tax breaks or incentives to companies that are doing well?” Stumbo said. “And it appeared to me that some members who are on that commission have jockeyed for those provisions to help their own businesses.”

In fact, Stumbo said, he’d like a review of existing tax breaks and incentives for business.

“We’ve really incentivized our tax code to the point to where we’re giving away more money than we’re taking in,” Stumbo said. Tax breaks or exemptions have been estimated to leave about $17 billion untapped. Kentucky’s General Fund budget is just under $10 billion a year.

“Some of these things are 20 or 30 years old,” Stumbo said. “They need to be looked at and reviewed again.” And in the future, he’d like to see such incentives include a sunset date.

Republicans in both the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-controlled Senate have said they are interested in tax reform if it helps create jobs or a more friendly business climate but are suspicious of proposals to raise more money.

It’s also an election year with half of the 38 state Senate seats and all 100 House seats on the ballot. Combined with the two parties’ different views of what form tax reform should take, it may be a tough sale for Beshear.

“Tax reform always means someone pays more and someone pays less,” Stumbo said. “The people who pay less don’t call and thank you but the people who pay more sure do call you and raise hell.”

He said the most likely outcome ― given what he’s hearing from fellow lawmakers ― is that neither proposal passes the 2014 session.

But Stumbo said lawmakers have promised Beshear they’ll keep an open mind about both tax reform and expanded gambling.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 4-18 George WilliamsWEB.jpg Suicide attempt fatal for inmate

    A Todd County man died Tuesday at a Lexington hospital following a suicide attempt at the Madison County Detention Center, according to Madison and Fayette county officials.
    George Kenneth Williams, 50, of Allensville, was transported Monday afternoon by Madison County EMS to Baptist Health Richmond, according to EMS Director Jimmy Cornelison. He was then transferred to Baptist Health in Lexington where he died Tuesday, according to the Fayette County Coroner’s Office.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • CCDW instructor indicted on charges of failing to provide training

    A Madison County grand jury has indicted a carry-concealed weapons permit instructor on charges he falsely claimed to have provided instruction to one person for a CCDW permit and provided incomplete training to three others.
    Christopher D. Fins was indicted April 9 on one count of CCDW instructor not providing firearms training and three counts of providing incomplete firearms training.
    Fins faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of all four felony charges.

    April 17, 2014

  • EKU dorm sprinklers may have been activated maliciously

    Fire-suppression sprinklers went off about 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Eastern Kentucky University’s Martin Hall dormitory, prompting its evacuation.
    Fluctuating pressure then caused a campus water main to break, according to EKU spokesperson Mark Whitt.
    The cause is uncertain, but university officials are investigating to determine if the sprinklers were activated maliciously, Whitt said.
    The residence hall houses 260 students who were placed in other university housing or stayed with friends. All were able to move back in later in the day, he said.

    April 17, 2014

  • Sixth person charged in motel meth bust

    A sixth person has been charged in connection with a methamphetamine-making operation discovered last week at the Bel Air Motel in Richmond.
    Roger M. Million, 24, Moberly Road, was charged Wednesday with manufacturing methamphetamine.

    April 17, 2014

  • 4-18 George WilliamsWEB.jpg Madison County inmate dies in Lexington hospital

    An inmate at the Madison County Detention Center died Tuesday at a Lexington hospital, according to officials with the Fayette County Coroner’s Office and Madison County EMS.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sprinkler goes off; dorm evacuated

    Fire-suppression sprinklers went off at about 2:30 a.m. Thursday in Eastern Kentucky University’s Martin Hall dormitory, prompting its evacuation.

    April 17, 2014

  • 4-17 4Hfieldday1.jpg 4-H Environmental Field Day

    Madison County fourth-graders participated in several hands-on activities Tuesday and Wednesday during the annual 4-H Environmental Field Day at the county fairgrounds.

    April 16, 2014 8 Photos

  • Hearing delayed on West Main zone change

    Signs giving notice of a public hearing on a proposed zone change at the corner of West Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue were not posted in time for the Richmond Planning Commission to scheduled a public hearing for its April 24 business session.

    April 16, 2014

  • Berea mulls break with Kentucky Utilities

    The city of Berea is considering whether to extend its contract with Kentucky Utilities or to shop around for another electricity provider.

    April 16, 2014

  • 4-17 Melissa Lear.jpg BPD charge two in Richmond heroin-trafficking case

    Berea police arrested two women April 10 in a Richmond home in connection with heroin possession and trafficking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo