Abramson lays out parameters and goals of tax reform group, pledges results this time

02/08/2012 08:45 AM

The soon-to-be-appointed blue ribbon task force on revamping Kentucky’s tax code will have no more than 16 members who will be a mix of Kentucky business leaders and advocates for education and social services, said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.

Those members will be named in the coming weeks, he said.

Abramson, whom Gov. Steve Beshear appointed as the commission’s chairman, pledged that after nine previous reviews of the the tax structure that yielded limited changes, this approach would be different.

He said once the group makes recommendations around Thanksgiving — conveniently after the 2012 election — the Beshear administration would put its full weight behind pushing for legislative approval. (9:00 of the video).

“There’s been a little tweaking here and a little tweaking there … Our governor now has made the commitment that he will, in fact, move forward — that we are at a point in terms of our tax structure is simply not responsive to where we want Kentucky to be in the future,” Abramson said (8:00). “Our commitment to the 15 or 12 or 16 people who will give their time, their effort, their energy to be on this commission is that we’re not jousting at windmills.”

The commission will look at all facets of the tax code, including the slew of exemptions that have built up over the years — some dating to the 1930s.

Abramson said lawyers and accountants will be advising the commission, and the group will hire a tax expert to help guide the process (2:00). The commission will hold public hearings and put up a website.

Abramson said key questions will be whether Kentucky’s tax structure and revenue is adequate to hire enough state police troopers, reduce class size and keep tuition rates low. (3:30)

“I’m not satisfied. And the governor made it very clear that he’s not satisfied,” Abramson said.

Beshear announced the task force during his Jan. 5 speech to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

But the governor said throughout his 2011 re-election campaign that he wouldn’t start a process to revamp the tax code until the economy perked up. Beshear said on Pure Politics in October that he didn’t foresee tackling the tax code in the near future because tax changes would lower some taxes and raise others, and he didn’t want any taxes going up during a period of weak economic growth.

“I think he was being very honest. And I gave that same speech all over the state myself,” Abramson said (5:30). We really are in a really fragile moment in our economy.”

But he said it will take a year to get through this process and recommend changes to the legislature. General Assembly leaders will get to appoint ex-officio members to the task force but will not be voting members.


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