Stumbo, House Democrats embrace reforms to special taxing districts

11/30/2012 07:28 AM

House Democrats plan to run with State Auditor Adam Edelen’s push to increase oversight and transparency of special taxing districts across the state.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo said a bill aimed at increasing scrutiny of these boards and agencies that can tax or impose fees will get the coveted designation of House Bill 1 in 2013 — symbolic of being a top priority.

These special taxing districts, which Edelen dubbed ghost government in his review, include library and volunteer fire districts as well as sewer districts, health departments and dozens of others. They collected more than $2.7 billion in taxes and fees last year, Edelen’s review found.

Edelen said again Thursday that the law hasn’t kept up with requiring proper oversight:

Stumbo said most taxing districts seem to be run well. But the lack of consistent oversight can allow some to get out of control.

For instance, the auditor’s office found problems the Garrett Volunteer Fire District in Stumbo’s home county of Floyd. The review found questionable spending and pornography videos on the district’s computers, according to the Herald-Leader.

Stumbo added that the law also must change to allow special districts that outlive their usefulness to be disbanded.

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown — and the new Senate floor leader — has sponsored similar legislation to crack down on those special districts. Last session, Sen. John Schickel of Union joined Thayer.

“For Sen. Schickel and me it’s been great to see state-wide elected official take an issue that’s important to us and shed some light on it,” Thayer said. “It’s even more gratifying that the Speaker of the House make that House Bill 1. It’s not very often that an issue that’s been championed for seven years by Republicans be promoted by Democrats.”

The idea first came out of the 2005 local taxation task force, Thayer said.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@twcnews.com.

Comments

  • Cumberland Gap wrote on December 03, 2012 09:39 AM :

    Thayer, that’s not quite accurate! That task force in 2005 had plenty of Democrat leaders on it that said the same things as you did. Why doesn’t the media point that out? Is their conservative bias leaking through?

  • Connie Crane wrote on January 15, 2013 10:53 PM :

    President Lincoln would be happy to see Democrats and Republicans find common ground on this one. SPECIAL DISTRICTS SPEND MORE than COUNTY GOVERNMENT in Kentucky and no elected official is directly responsible. The Stare already has a database — what we need is what Senator Thayer and the Democrats in 2005 study group recommend — FISCAL court oversees spending in county and special districts should be subject to budget approval by Fiscal Courts. Efficient and effective government should be important to both parties. Including special districts in regional planning not a bad idea either. We have duplicative services!

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