“When you give government more permission to take your money, they will.”
—Rep. Ben Waide
MADISONVILLE, Ky. (1/20/14) – Approximately 40 people attended Monday morning's Legislative Breakfast sponsored by the Madisonville - Hopkins County Chamber of Commerce and Baptist Health to listen to area state legislators about issues being addressed in the current legislative session.
The panel of two Republicans and three Democrats were in agreement on a number of issues and had stark differences on others.
All agreed that they would have to wait until the governor makes his budget proposal before they could really get to work on the details. All agreed that I-69 would continue to be a priority.
State Sen. Jerry Rhoads said that the interchange at the intersection of the Western Kentucky and Pennyrile parkways is progressing.
State Rep. Ben Waide said that he had met with District 2 Highway Engineer Kevin McClearn, and that good progress is being made to designate more sections of the old parkways to I-69 standards.
All were in agreement that the Mid-Town Commons connector road is on their radars. State Rep. Brent Yonts said that he hoped the project was on Gov. Beshear’s list; but if not, he will work to put it in the House plan and said there is a high probability of getting it done.
State Rep. Myron Dossett, whose 9th District will extend into Hopkins County, said that he would make the connector road a priority as well.
All were also in agreement that they would like to see a new Murray State building on the Madisonville Community College campus. Rhoads said that communities requesting capital construction projects should expect to contribute a significant portion of the cost. Yonts added that even University of Kentucky projects were being funded by their own bonding.
Likewise, the five men hoped that teachers and state employees would see some pay increases after several years of no Cost of Living adjustments.
State Rep. Jim Gooch said that education is an economic development issue. He hopes that SEEK funding relief is in the governor’s plan.
When the discussion came to budget priorities, the panelists began to differ. Waide said that the state needed to tighten its belt. He is very concerned about the ballooning costs of Medicaid. Waide pointed out that 60 precent of the state’s budget is for education and Medicaid is crowding out dollars that should be spent on education.
Gooch is also concerned about Medicaid. He pointed out that 800,000 of Kentucky’s 4.2 million people were on Medicaid. Under the Affordable Care Act, he expects the number to increase about 50 percent to 1.2 million or 28 percent of total population.
“This is being paid for by the federal right now,” he said. “In three years, Kentucky will have to pay 30 percent”.
Gooch said he has asked for the numbers from the state.
The sentiment of the panel was that there needs to be tax reform. They acknowledged that the public hears “tax reform” and thinks “tax increase”.
Yonts was not optimistic about comprehensive tax reform; but, he thought “bits and pieces” could be done. Rhoads was a bit more specific on tax reform.
“There have been 13 studies since 1982 on revenue, and they are all sitting on shelves gathering dust,” said Rhoads. “We can only do so much without proper funding.”
On establishing a statewide smoking ban, there were several opinions. Waide said that he did not like the legislation previously considered.
“A business owner sitting back in his office smoking a cigarette would have been in violation of the law,” Waide said.
Rhoads took a different view.
“I think it is freedom to not be exposed to second hand smoke,” he said. “I have not heard any complaints from anyone about our (Hopkins County) smoking ban even from business owners.”
Regarding giving local government additional taxing authority, Rhoads said that it would require a constitutional amendment and local voters would have to approve. Most on the panel were in favor of putting it on the ballot.
Waide offered a cautionary note.
“When you give government more permission to take your money, they will,” he said.
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