Could lessons learned from '13 session translate to tax reform and expanded gambling?

04/01/2013 05:55 PM

Legislative leaders of both parties learned last week they could actually work together after all, raising the prospects of potential agreements on tax reform and casino gambling.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer said the 2013 legislature’s passage bills dealing with issues like pension reform proved that divided government can achieve significant policy goals.

“Our position all along is we wanted to pass the structural reforms that were embodied in Senate Bill 2 and the Senate felt that we could deal with the funding mechanism through the regular context of the budget next year,” Thayer said (at 3:10 of part one). He also discusses one issue lawmakers didn’t resolve: cutting off a pension perk for legislators who change government jobs. (6:00 of the video)

But how will that translate to tax reform and expanded gambling, which have proven to be complex and politically thorny issues in the past? Watch the second part of the video later in the post.

When it came to funding, the governor and legislative leaders considered some of the recommendations from the commission on tax reform, such as closing loopholes and reducing individual tax deductions. Thayer said those ideas came from the governor.

But while the Senate was not willing to look at many of the funding options, Thayer says they were interested in the gas tax recommendation that was ultimately not adopted.

“The Senate would have been happy to cut the gas tax by two cents or more, it was House democrats who were opposed to cutting the gas tax and that is something we were strongly in support of. The road fund is flushed with cash right now…and what better time to cut the gas tax when prices are still high,” (at 5:20).

Thayer said to go further with tax reform, Beshear would need to make “a strong case” for the other recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission headed up by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramso.

And he said the Senate would be willing to take a look at tax reform.

“There are recommendations that we think we need to look at, recommendations that would reflect positively on the bourbon industry and the horse industry. We like cuts in the personal tax rates and corporate tax rates,” Thayer said (at 1:30 in video below).

Another issue to possibly be taken up in 2014 is casino gambling in the state. Thayer worked with Governor Steve Beshear in the 2012 session to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot to allow gambling.

And Thayer says he believes the governor can get both tax reform and casino gambling done in the coming session, but to do so he has to go “all in” on gambling.

“That means going to his fellow democrats who run the House of Representatives and asking them to sponsor the bill and get 60 votes on a constitutional amendment. The Senate has done its job. We have done something the House has never done, we brought a constitutional amendment out of committee and to the floor for a vote,” (at 7:30).


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.