Typically, the governor’s annual State of the Commonwealth address, delivered to a joint session of the House and Senate, typically focuses on the accomplishments made for the betterment of Kentucky, but this year’s address by Gov. Steve Beshear focused on the serious fiscal challenges our commonwealth faces. According to the governor, the projected revenue won’t cover current and prior commitments, including areas of education and our public pension system.
While we in the General Assembly know there are financial problems in Kentucky, Beshear offered up few specifics toward reforming our public pension system or funding our educational system. And as far as comprehensive tax reform, it appears the governor will push for a special session to address this issue.
It is time to stop putting off the issues and topics that are vital to the future of Kentucky and our people. The time for bold leadership is now, not six months or one year down the road.
Several major pieces of legislation were placed on the fast track last week. House Bill 7 was approved in committee and passed out of the House this week. It authorizes funding for 11 projects at our public universities, including the expansion of the Gatton School of Business at the University of Kentucky, and construction of new dorms or renovation of existing dorms at Morehead, Murray and Northern Kentucky universities. The legislation would allow these schools to issue their own bonds.
House Bill 1 was also approved in committee and given passage in the House. It deals with the various special taxing districts that generate billions of dollars and sets up greater oversight on their operation. While the bill did pass, some legislators had concerns about the lack of control over these districts by local government, and also a fee system set up specifically to hire more employees at the state auditor’s office for the purpose of monitoring these districts.
We anticipate debate soon on reform of Kentucky’s public pension system. Senate Bill 2 was approved by that chamber and is based on the bi-partisan task force recommendations. Our current pension system is woefully underfunded and is running an unfunded liability of more than $33 billion, and we must address the system now to avoid worse financial problems later.
MYRON DOSSETT, R-Pembroke, is the 9th District state representative. Leave messages for lawmakers in Frankfort by calling 800-372-7181, or email Dossett at email@example.com.