Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

December 26, 2012

Don’t wish for things you don’t really want


Dec. 26, 2012 —     We believe that expression could fit the quandary facing Gov. Steve Beshear as he ponders what to do with tax reform.

     He and key advisors no doubt are sifting through that list of 54 recommendations from his blue ribbon tax reform commission headed by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.

    The governor steadfastly refused during his first term to discuss, much less consider, updating Kentucky’s antiquated tax laws.

    His argument that a time of economic downturn was the wrong time to raise taxes moved all of the members of the General Assembly into the “amen corner” because they also didn’t want to raise taxes on the folks back home.

    Meanwhile, Beshear and the legislature hacked $1.6 billion out of the state budget, including a 60 percent reduction in school safety funding that just came to light in the aftermath of what happened in Connecticut.

    Critical state-funded programs were left to make do with what they had after cuts because neither the governor nor the 138 lawmakers were willing to put themselves at risk by publicly uttering the dreaded “T” word.

    Now that he is a year safely into his second term and has a more reasonable leader in the Republican-led Senate, the governor surely  realizes that something must be done about a  decrepit state tax system that won’t support what we have now, much less what we need going forward.

    He deferred action on tax reform last year by appointing the study group and asking those good citizens to come back in a year with a plan.

Now, in the words of another folksy expression, those chickens have come home to roost.

    We were proud recently to applaud the tax reform commission for having the courage to recommend changes that would produce $659 million in new state revenue.

     However, the calendar is not the governor’s friend as he tries to come up with tax proposals for the 2013 session.

    Since it will be the alternating 30-day or short session, tax and budget matters require a super majority of 60 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate.

    But the governor knows that some of the state’s needs, especially the funding shortfall in the state retirement systems, must have a major infusion of cash sooner than later.

    In our opinion, the governor faces the most important challenge of his political career.

    Unless he can persuade the General Assembly to modernize the tax system, history will remember him only as a caretaker of the highest office in this Commonwealth.