'New day' in Frankfort will be tested by pension crisis and tax debate, senator says

12/17/2012 08:47 PM

State Senator Julie Denton says she could support some of the recommendations made by the governor’s tax commission but that some are slippery slopes that the state shouldn’t depend on while others could be unfair.

The tax commission’s recommendation to raise the cigarette tax from 60 cents to a dollar per-pack is one that Denton, who chairs the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, said she could support.

“Cigarette taxes are I think always on the table. It is a vice, obviously, with no positive outcomes. It costs our medicaid program lots of money, the repercussions from smoking, it is a health hazard. So I think there is always a possibility we could increase the tax on cigarettes” (at 1:15).

The commission also suggested applying the 6 percent state sales tax to certain services. Denton said that’s an idea that has been discussed for a long time but is often difficult to agree on.

“If you are going to pick and choose the services, it becomes very politically dicey. If you are just going to say blanket all services, that could have more political will. But one you say you are just going to pick and choose then the lobbying starts hot and heavy in Frankfort and he who screams the most usually wins,” she said (at 2:30).

Denton said 2013 will be a new day in Frankfort, and the test of leadership will be fixing the underfunded pension system. The Senate has been working to make systemic changes to the system for several legislative sessions, and the House needs to agree to changes in retirement benefits for new hires.

“I think it is critical we make a change in what we are doing with our pensions. We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result, that is the definition of insanity” (at 6:25).

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