Lawmaker on tax reform commission questions governor's leadership style on controversial reforms

03/25/2013 08:43 AM

For Kentucky’s General Assembly to embrace any kind of tax code changes, Gov. Steve Beshear will have to step up his public call for changes and private meetings with lawmakers, said Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville.

Wayne served as a non-voting member last year on Beshear’s blue ribbon commission that recommended changes to the tax code. Those changes included a combination of expanding the sales tax to certain services and cutting corporate and personal income tax rates, among other changes. If the legislature embraced all the group’s recommendations, it would generate more than $650 million in revenue.

But aside from one House committee hearing in February to present the findings, tax reform has largely been ignored in the 2013 General Assembly.

“The problem is they’ve presented it, but then what happens? I don’t know. That’s where leadership comes in,” Wayne said in an interview with Pure Politics that aired Friday (7:15 of the interview). “… It starts with the governor. The governor needs to do that. This governor is very capable of doing that. But his style is one that I question, quite frankly.”

Wayne said he wants to see the governor make a more public case and do a better job in using the bully pulpit to lay the groundwork for difficult reforms, like broad changes to the tax code.

Meanwhile, House and Senate leaders are trying to agree on ways to revamp the Kentucky Retirement System, which covers pensions for state, county and city workers. Part of the negotiations is whether the General Assembly comes up with money to pay for increased contributions into the system, which has more than $18 billion more in obligations than it does assets.

“My hope is that we not agree to just a shell — just the restructuring. You have to put some money into it,” Wayne said (0:30). He said a majority of other House Democrats indicated at their last caucus meeting that they agree with that.

Wayne said the needs to increase payments into the public employee pension system is another “symptom” of a wider problem with funding state government. (1:30)

He is among those pushing for additional revenue beyond the more than $650 million that the tax reform commission’s recommendations would generate.

“The hints that I get from certain people in the House is that the governor is still interested in tagging tax reform to pension reform,” Wayne said (5:15 of the interview). “Some of these negotiations during this interim are at least including that discussion. But I don’t see that’s possible, politically, to say we can come back in the next two days that we have in this session on Monday and Tuesday and try to tag tax reform to pensions.”


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