Blue Ribbon Commission meets to hone in on recommendations

Lousiville contingent at the Blue Ribbon meeting

The Blue Ribbon Tax Reform Commission met in Frankfort yesterday to hone in on the tax reform recommendations that they'll be submitting to the Governor on Nov. 15.  A cluster of KFTC members were there to try to take any opportunity to give voice to the concerns of everyday Kentuckians. Here are some of our take-aways and highlights:

  • The food tax is off the table! Good news.
  • We were pleased to hear *more* commissioners speak up for prioritizing adequate revenue that makes Kentucky more competitive by allowing us to invest in ourselves and our infrastructure.  Commissioner Rick Jordan is a Vice President of a Northern Kentucky industry, and he said, “Are we going to be able restore the huge cuts we’ve taken in education?...With all the cuts, we’re dying, we can’t find skilled people.”  We discovered later that he was involved in a survey of businesses in northern Kentucky that concluded there are today 680 unfilled jobs due to a lack of skilled candidates. In the next 10 years they project there will be 6,250 jobs in highly technical careers that will need to be filled in northern Kentucky.
  • It was especially gratifying to hear Commissioner Jordan speak up for adequacy because so many of the other conversations in the room were focused on maintaining or deepening tax cuts to the wealthiest Kentuckians or corporations. Certainly not all of the commissioners participated in this, and it might have even been a minority of them, but there was a lot of time spent on debating a handful of tax policy recommendations from the Department of Revenue that would essentially just bring our codes up to date, because of how they might "hurt" a tiny fraction of wealthier Kentuckians. There was debate, for example, about streamlining property taxes so that big fancy boats are subjected to the same state tax as smaller fishing boats. (Right now, the big fancy boats are taxed less by the state.) There was debate over a policy that would ensure that corporate cars are subjected to the property tax, just as the family minivan is. And there was debate around restoring Kentucky's estate tax on estates worth more than $3.5 million ($7 million for couples) even though only about .03% of estates would be impacted by this tax.
  • Which is why it was so important that KFTC members were in the room. Linda Stettenbenz of the Jefferson County chapter was one of these members, and here are her reflections on why it was important to be there:

"I think a lot of these commissioners have been largely insulated from the input of ordinary people in decisions that affect them.  Becki and I talked with one of the commissioners whose ideas have often raised real flags for us.  I thanked him for being the first to put taxing groceries on the “off the table” list, and told him that would make a big difference in the budgets of people like me.  But then I pushed him on the need for revenue to support higher education and fairness for the working poor and small businesses.   Becki flat out told him she didn’t appreciate that the commissioners seemed to be overly focused on the "needs" of the wealthiest.  

It did seem like the tone of the meeting shifted after the break. The second half of the meeting was somewhat more inclusive of the needs of the rest of the state.

Overall, I see that some good things could come out of these proposals, and I'm glad that we, KFTC members, have put so much work into helping craft and lift up sensible policies.  We’ll have to continue into next year’s General Session to hold our legislators accountable for fair and adequate tax reform."

The next meeting is on Nov. 8 at the KHEAA Conference Room at 100 Airport Road, Frankfort. Right now it's listed as a 12 to 4 meeting, but check the Tax Commission's website, because there was talk of starting it earlier. Let Jerry Hardt know if you can come at jhardt@kftc.org!

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