James Comer proposes teaming earned-income tax credit and right-to-work law to grow middle class

04/27/2015 07:24 PM

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer unveiled the final points of his campaign platform on Monday, adding an earned-income tax credit to his gubernatorial wish list about three weeks before Republican voters pick their nominee.

Comer and his running mate, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, said the issue isn’t a strictly partisan one, even as Comer cited one of the most liberal supporters of the idea, Democratic Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville, in his remarks at Bowman Field. The gubernatorial ticket flew to Paducah and Bowling Green to promote their vision on Monday.

Former President Ronald Reagan first sparked the thought of an earned-income tax credit, said McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill.

“So this is not an idea that is unique to one party or the other,” he said. “It’s a proven way to grow your middle class and to reduce the tax burden on them and to reduce the strain on the social services and safety nets.”

Comer said he expects the earned-income tax credit, a 10 percent credit for families earning less than $100,000 annually, would cost roughly $86 million.

To make up that sum, he suggested ending tax incentives like the $6.5 million available in film tax credits, cutting the state’s debt ratio to save $30 million and reducing leasing costs through consolidation, which he said could generate $10 million annually.

“We consolidated our space at the Department of Agriculture, and we’re saving $250,000, a quarter of a million dollars a year, on rent,” Comer said. “I can do that across the board as governor.”

The credits could offer relief for middle-class Kentuckians, as could right-to-work legislation, Comer said.

Compared to other candidates in the GOP field, Comer said only he could pass a right-to-work bill with the General Assembly’s current makeup. Republicans control the state Senate while Democrats hold the House of Representatives.

“If we can agree on another plan like the earned-income tax credit, we can get enough Democrats — we can, Chris McDaniel and I — to pass the right-to-work legislation,” Comer said. “If we’re going to be able to grow our economy to be able to reduce taxes and reduce the size of government, we have to get the economy going from day one of our administration. Right to work will do that.”

“The earned-income tax credit along with the right-to-work legislation would make the 2016 session the most successful legislative session in recent memory,” he continued.

Other points in Comer’s plan to grow the middle class and cut the size of government include:

  • Creating a first-time small business tax credit
  • Reducing government spending by 10 percent in four years
  • Cutting the size of government by 15 percent, largely through privatization
  • Reopening negotiations with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on consent degrees with sanitation districts
  • Incentivizing state employees who come up with cost-saving ideas


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