MUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (3/6/13) - State Representative Brent Yonts, representing Hopkins, Christian and Muhlenberg Counties since 1997, says these are some of the toughest sessions he's seen since he first came to Frankfort.
Yonts told Surfky.com News, "This has been one of the toughest sessions I've been in due to its intensity."
Yonts is now handling the duties as Chair of the Committee on State Government, while legislators are also dealing with a long line of budgetary headaches, including the state pension problems.
Meanwhile, on the national level, the state must also deal with the effects of the Congressional sequestration.
Sequestration was adopted in 2011 by Congress to deal with the federal budget deficit. Neither Congress nor the Obama administration thought sequestration would ever be put into action, but due to a deadlock, on March 1st cuts began. Half of the spending cuts affect the military, while the other half cut into domestic discretionary spending. That includes just about everything from the FBI to education to aviation.
"How will the 85 billion dollar sequestration affect us? At this point I'm not sure anybody knows." Yonts said.
Yonts is concerned about the effect on education, along with the impact on 50% of the military. “The military has a lot of fat in it, but I see no real threat to security. Inconveniences in travel will occur after 30 days when people are laid off at the federal level. That's likely to happen, with longer lines at airports and that sort of thing," Yonts Said.
"Congress is doing a lot of grand standing on both sides right now. But the ultimate issue is to deal with the revenue deficit, and that's where the middle ground has been found." Yonts continued.
"In Kentucky, what I'm dealing with is our state revenue deficit. The state senate sent us a bill with no recommendations as to how to fund the the contribution, although it's to be fully funded annually. They want to kick the can down the road, when we have a budget year in 2014. They want to fund it out of future growth…which they say is 280 million dollars. But that money is already spoken for. That money has to go to fill the current gaps." Yonts explained.
"Yes, we did receive some money from a one-time only tax amnesty program, 55 to 60 million dollars. That money won't be present in the future, which means something else has to be cut. So unless you start cutting into elementary and secondary education, there is nothing left to cut. We have the lowest number of employees working for the state, I believe, since 1976. So we have to deal with tax reform to try to make our tax structure elastic. I suggested we supply a funding mechanism. As it turns out, the state senate task force plan would cost 55 million dollars more over 20 years. I am told my plan will save 201 million dollars. We don't have the money to fund the short fall unless we use money from the lottery, which is never popular. It's a hard spot to be in, but that's where we are. We have to make hard decisions."
On a positive note, Yonts said, "The next thing that should happen is raising the dropout age." He noted this would be a huge step forward for the state.
Photo provided by SurfKY Graphics
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