In just over a month, Kentucky lawmakers go back to Frankfort for a special session on new boundaries for the state’s legislative districts. But, there are no plans yet to resolve another issue facing the state.
Often called “real” or “comprehensive” tax reform, the issue has been on Frankfort’s radar screen for years. Despite numerous proposals, no substantial change in tax policy has come under serious consideration at the statehouse. Gov. Steve Beshear said Kentucky needs a “modern tax system” responsive to a 21st century economy. But, he admited, politicians would rather avoid the topic.
“Any time you mention the word taxes, it causes political concerns and I understand that, but we’ve got some really good quality people in the leadership in the House and Senate that understand that this state needs to have a modern tax system for the future and so I think we’re gonna have some great discussions and hopefully we’ll get there,” Beshear said.
A Commission on Tax Reform chaired by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson offered recommendations last fall. They included a one-dollar per pack cigarette tax and an expansion of the state sales tax to include certain services. Plus, the commission said local governments should be allowed to levy a sales tax for special projects. House Speaker Greg Stumbo doesn’t feel there’s much of a push for the groups’ suggested tax reforms.
“I’ve never even spoke to Lt.Gov. Abramson about the recommendations. He’s never come by to explain to me and as far as I know he’s not been explaining them to other members of the General Assembly, or very few members of the General Assembly I would say,” Stumbo said.
Many of the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations are not new. So, even with a bigger push from the Beshear Administration, Stumbo doubted there will be much support from state lawmakers.
“It’s a challenge,” Stumbo said. It needs to be done. I would hope that, in some point in the future we could address it and address it in a comprehensive manner. But, it is a tough political question and it’s a hard to get people focused on it because what it really means is somebody pays more and somebody pays less.”
Stumbo said that as the U.S. economy grows, states continue to lag behind. He blames tax structures that are not fully linked to the modern economy. In that, the Democratic leader says Kentucky is no different than 49 other states.