Editor’s Note: This legislative update was submitted on Monday January 3.
When we call the 2022 regular session on Tuesday, January 4, we start the clock on a 60-day session and a long list of goals to accomplish. Before we adjourn April 15, we need to develop a responsible budget, plan to invest federal COVID relief funds wisely, redraw legislative district and congressional boundaries appropriately, and meet post-disaster recovery needs. storm in western and western Kentucky and pandemic relief needs across our Commonwealth. In addition, we will continue our efforts to improve child protection, reform public assistance programs and close gaps in our approach to the mental health crisis. I look forward to continuing to provide legislative updates throughout the session and appreciate the opportunity to post them here.
Redistricting: It looks like the first issue we’ll be addressing this week is voting on new district boundaries for state legislative, congressional and judicial seats. Kentucky’s constitution requires states to redraw legislative district boundaries to reflect population changes since the last census. To draw these maps, it is necessary to follow often contradictory legal and constitutional considerations. Late last week, a group of lawmakers working on the redistribution proposal released an outline of the House plan. As we consider all possible changes in our districts, I think we agree that this proposal represents a committed effort to address all legal considerations while respecting communities and appreciate the efforts of those who have spent months working on it. the plan. This plan does not divide a single constituency statewide, and each district is fully contiguous and as compact as possible given such variables as topography and existing county constituency lines. It was not always the case. By way of comparison, consider that the redistribution plans adopted by previous legislatures included more than 150 divided constituencies. Currently, we have a district that stretches from the Tennessee state boundary to Hardin County. The population shifts required the combination of existing House districts, and the plan ultimately combines four pairs of incumbents – two Democratic groups and two Republicans groups. Like all legislation, this measure is subject to change. I expect we will vote on a final plan by the end of this week so that we can focus again on the budget and other matters.
State Budget: According to the Kentucky Constitution, the legislature must approve a spending plan for state agencies and programs. The budget must be balanced, which means that we cannot spend more than what we can pay with government revenue. The constitution also requires that the state budget begin in the House of Representatives. The budget is often seen as the most important policy document we adopt. After all, a glance at someone’s checkbook will tell you more about their priorities than anything they say. Our current spending plan reflects our commitment to responsibly invest taxpayer dollars in programs that benefit the people of Kentucky. We have allocated historic amounts for education, water and sanitation infrastructure, and broadband expansion. After spending the spring, summer and fall preparing a spending plan for the next two years, I look forward to building on this foundation.
Tax Modernization: I want the people of Kentucky to work more for themselves and less to pay taxes to the state government. However, decades of poor political leadership created billions in pension debt and skyrocketed the costs of the Medicaid program. While we did not cause the debt, we need to fix the problems and meet our financial obligations. We have two options: raise taxes or grow our economy. Rising taxes are hurting working Kentuckians, but the growing economy means more Kentuckians are in well-paying jobs. One of the best ways to create jobs is to modernize the tax code in a way that takes into account the current economy. Our tax code is outdated, complicated, and better suited to the economy of 1970 than it is today. Lawmakers began modernizing taxes before the pandemic, and efforts to broaden the base and lower tax rates so more people pay less paid off when the first case of COVID was diagnosed. These changes are part of the reason government revenues are doing so well today. After all, before the pandemic, we were on track to break state revenue records and made record investments in economic development. I hope we will consider some additional changes that will benefit the people of our state.
Storm Recovery / Emergency Preparedness: Now that large parts of western and western Kentucky are grappling with the aftermath of the deadly December tornadoes, we are assessing the role the legislature must play in helping communities and individuals to recover. While we currently have federal emergency agencies working in the region, we know they will not be here forever. It’s up to us to envision long-term policies that will help rebuild these communities, get people back to work and school, and help people get their lives back. This tragedy also signals the need to rethink the way our State approaches emergencies and what we can do to better prepare for them in the future.
Like you, I want this Commonwealth to be the best place to live and work so that every Kentuckian has the opportunity to reach their full potential. This philosophy will guide every vote I take by April 15th. I hope you will feel free to contact me over the next few weeks. You can reach me by calling 502-564-8100, via the toll-free message line in Frankfurt at 1-800-372-7181, or by e-mail at [email protected]. You can follow committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature home page at legislature.ky.gov.