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Monday, July 9, 2018

Opinion: Looking at Opportunities for Kentucky

By Jason Kilmer, Candidate for State Representative District 68

Viewing the dysfunctional proceedings of the recent session of the Kentucky General Assembly, I believe Kentucky deserves better.

Kentucky needs to get serious about the relationship between education and state revenues.  A University of Kentucky study shows the relationship between educational attainment and increased tax revenue. This study shows even the modest change of increasing Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree holders by 1% would increase tax revenue by $37 million. Kentucky loses between $300 million and $500 million in state tax revenues every year because educational attainment is lower than the national average in respect to higher education.  Kentucky cannot afford not to invest in public education on all levels.

To increase educational attainment, Kentucky has to explore and discuss new streams of revenue for its citizens to realize a higher quality of life. My opponent in the fall, 20-year incumbent of House District 68 Joe Fischer contributed to this dysfunction.

The 2018 Session was opportunity for Fischer to exhibit leadership skills. House District 68 contains 2 of Kentucky’s top 5 public school districts—Fort Thomas and Campbell County as well part of Northern Kentucky University.  He failed to do so as he has done the previous 19 years.

In the first budget passed by the first Republican legislature since the 1920s, there is no funding for textbooks and the budget for higher education is cut by 6.25%.  NKU is considering cutting professors who teach over 500 courses. The Governor and the legislature took $310 million from the Public Employees Health Insurance Fund to balance the budget in addition to adding sales taxes from auto repair to bowling to vet services.  The Governor’s budget director, John Chilton, said Kentucky will be short over $50 million during 2018-19.

Joe Fischer as House Judiciary Chair had the ability to explore additional sources of revenue for K-12 public and higher education. He failed to use his newly found position of leadership to do so.    Fischer, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, had the power to holding hearings HB 166 concerning sale and taxation of medical marijuana but failed to do so. With the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing states to allow legalization of sports betting is another opportunity for Kentucky to raise revenue.

Closing tax loopholes and incentives are a source of revenue. Is it fair that the property tax rate on a 21-foot bass boat is greater than on a $250,000 house boat?  Should Kentucky continue to pay over $50 million a year in tax credits to movie producers without any accountability?

The 2018 General Assembly was elected in November 2016, a year and two months prior to the beginning of the 2018 General Assembly. The Republicans had a super-majority in both the House and the Senate as well as control of the Governor’s Mansion.  Yet, the majority was not prepared as seen by its behaviors and lack of preparation in the 14 months leading up to the 2018 Session and in the 60 days of the session.  Kentuckians need a new majority in Frankfort to offer all Kentuckians opportunities for a great future.

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