Beshear administration now must sell lawmakers on tax changes. Can it?

01/07/2013 05:45 PM

If much of the work of the governor’s tax commission is to become law, the administration must convince lawmakers and the public that areas like education and public protection will stagnate as state money is eaten up by other obligations, said Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson.

Abramson, who headed up the governor’s commission that spent nearly a year examining and debating tax code changes, told Pure Politics on Friday that the government will be $1 billion short of its obligations by 2020 if nothing is done. That’s because of a combination of rising costs of government programs and a tax system that is too outdated to keep up with the current economy.

“We have got to carry that message to say you want your youngster to go to community college? Look what the tuition was and what it is today. You want better state police coverage? Look how many you had at the post 10 years and how many you have today,” Abramson said to sum up his sales pitch (at 3:20 of the video).

Gov. Steve Beshear, meanwhile, enjoys high job approval ratings. But Abramson said the governor still has to study the recommendations, which the group submitted to him on Dec. 17, before he decides what — and how — to push.

“I can help and carry that role,” Abramson added. “I can reasonably articulate what happened. I did chair (the commission) for eleven and half months, and I can answer the questions and try to carry the message of exactly where we are and what our options might be.” (at 5:00).

Last month, Beshear indicated tax reform would likely have to wait until after the 30-day legislation session to pass something. That’s because odd-year sessions require approval of three-fifths of each chamber to pass a revenue measure. Beshear has said tax reform might have to wait until a special session or 2014.

Also underscoring how difficult it could be to get a package of reforms through the legislature, Abramson disagreed with the suggestion by House Speaker Greg Stumbo that, as part of tax changes, the legislature should designate one revenue stream specifically for the financially beleaguered public pension fund. Stumbo cited, for instance, the commission’s suggestion to tax pension income starting at $30,000 instead of $41,000 per year.

“I think that might troublesome because the pension issue is a state government employee issue, the pension funding that is the taxes we are focusing on in terms of asking people to pay, that will come from pensions that are not only state employees but people that work at Ford, people who have worked at Toyota, people who have retired from International Harvester, etc,” Abramson said (at 6:25).


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