Senate GOP leaders say they will focus on jobs, economy in 2017 session

12/01/2016 04:59 PM

With Democrats out of power in Kentucky’s House of Representatives, Senate Republicans are eager to see a number of bills that had stalled in the lower chamber become law.

Speaking at their caucus retreat in Paducah on Wednesday, Senate GOP leaders say they will focus primarily on economic legislation in the upcoming session that gavels in Jan. 3.

“I think what we want to do is create an environment and atmosphere that has jobs at the end of our mission, and we know that we’re in a wonderful position,” said Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.

“Here’s one of the greatest assets in the United States, the Ohio (River) coming into the confluences of the Mississippi (River), and we need to develop all these things. We have a great ag base out here, but we need to expand on that ag base, and we want to create jobs in manufacturing, agriculture, everything that we can create a job in because that’s what this is about.”

Senate Republicans offered little on exactly which bills they would prioritize in next year’s session. Recent priority bills have included charter schools, right to work and repealing prevailing wage requirements on education-related construction.

With House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, out of the picture, Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer says Republicans, including Gov. Matt Bevin and House Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover, need to get on the same page before the 2017 General Assembly convenes.

“We’ve got to take a look at all these policies that we want to pass to remove artificial barriers to free enterprise, for example, and we’ve got to decide exactly what is going to be in the bill, who’s going to sponsor it, what chamber it’s going to be filed in, et cetera, and how we’re going to get it all done in 30 days,” said Thayer, R-Georgetown. “So we know where we want to be, but what we’re working on now is laying out the road map for how to get there.”

One topic that likely won’t get attention in the upcoming session is tax reform.

Bevin has indicated that will he call a special session to handle tax reform, and Senate Republicans acknowledged the complicated task ahead.

“When you talk tax reform, there’s going to be winners and losers,” said Senate Majority Whip Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon. “We’ve got to make sure it’s not a smokescreen for tax increases. We’ve got to make sure it’s done right and we do what we set out to do – do something that moves Kentucky forward.”

Thayer said “there’s really no sense in commenting on” tax reform without a concrete proposal to consider.

“Are we going to replace the income tax with a consumption tax? We don’t know that yet,” he said. “I think there’s a general feeling that what we need to do is to make Kentucky more business-friendly.”

Video from Paducah by cn|2’s Chris Bratton.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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