Skeptical House committee points to flaws with bill aimed at capping debt

03/20/2012 04:00 PM

Legislation aimed at reducing the amount of general fund debt Kentucky can carry at any one time made its way to an unconvinced house review committee Tuesday.

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee didn’t vote on the measure, would require the General Assembly to keep the debt at or under 6 percent of state revenue in the general fund.

It previously passed the state Senate 34-2. But House Democrats have pointed to a number of issues with the bill. For instance, as Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said on Pure Politics, the bill would count debt for public university construction projects — which usually have dedicated revenue from student housing or dining fees — but doesn’t count the nearly $1 billion in debt for constructing more than 70 new county courthouses.

Sen. Joe Bowen, D-Owensboro, the bill’s sponsor said, “the single most important responsibility we have as state elected officials is to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”

And Bowen said taxpayers have become skeptical of legislators’ ability to be good stewards in recent years.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, along with other lawmakers on the panel thought that capping the amount of debt Kentucky can hold could have significant consequences.

“I see it as just really reducing the services we can provide to the most needy if we don’t have flexibility in our ability to manage the debt,” Flood said.

Rep. Sannie Overly, (D) Paris, called the bill “disingenuous,” as she told Bowen she hears from taxpayers, “What a good job they think this general assembly, and this administration has done in weathering what has been one of the worst economic downturns that this state has seen certainly in a lifetime.”

No vote was taken on the bill.


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