Local/Regional News
6:00 am
Tue February 11, 2014

Tax Code Changes in KY: Is Now the Time?

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear's Tax Modernization plan faces its first legislative hurdle on Tuesday.

A legislative committee will be briefed Tuesday on Gov. Steve Beshear's proposal to modernize the state's tax code. The proposal would tax more services than in the past.
Credit Greg Stotelmyer

State House budget chairman Rick Rand calls it a "starting point." The plan will get its first hearing during Tuesday's meeting of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee.

According to economic policy analyst Jason Bailey of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, the Governor's plan would create millions of dollars less in new revenue than what was proposed by his tax-reform commission.

"It's only about a third of the additional revenue to plug holes in the budget and begin to reinvest in areas that have been cut time after time over the last six years."

Bailey was a member of the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform, which proposed $659 million in new revenue, while Beshear's plan would raise only $210 million. Bailey said that's "just not adequate" for getting Kentucky's schools and human services back on track.

Beshear called his plan a "beginning point," which he claimed is "fair and equitable to everybody." A cornerstone of the proposal is a change in the state's tax system so it can catch up with the change from a goods-based to a service-based economy.

"Our tax base is eroding every day," the Governor warned. "And, so we're proposing to expand the sales tax, not raise the rate, but expand the sales tax to a limited number of services in our economy."

For instance, when you take your car in for repairs you are currently taxed on the parts, but not the labor. Both would be taxed under a modernized tax code. Other examples are adding sales tax to landscaping, janitorial and laundry services.

Bailey said the Governor's tax plan leaves out a major recommendation made by the task force that would have generated $350 million a year. The idea was to limit what higher-income people could claim on their taxes, by capping itemized deductions at $17,500.

"The reason we did that is most of our surrounding states don't allow them at all," the economic analyst said. "And, it's a way to make the overall tax system fairer and more progressive and generate some much-needed revenue."

Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson, who headed the tax reform commission, said the Governor "listened" to the commission's recommendations but had to put a "political filter" on his proposals.