Mayor Paxton, Sen. Bob Leeper and Lt. Gov. Abramson at public hearing
(Paducah,KY, May 29, 2012) – The first of several public hearings by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform (TRC) was in Paducah on a warm Tuesday evening. Eleven committee members, including state legislators serving as ex officio participants, sat in a long row on the stage at Paducah Tilghman High School Auditorium. They were there to hear suggestions on amending the current tax code. Governor Beshear's charge to them is to come up with a road map to make it fair, competitive, simple to comply with, elastic to meet changing conditions and adequate to meet the needs of the Commonwealth.
Those who signed up to testify included several local teachers who said that failing to adequately fund education would result in even fewer textbooks than students have now. One teacher said she had not had a raise in four years. She told the group that means less money in her pocket – and less tax revenue for the state.
Representatives of mental health providers and recipients of mental health services laid out their case statistically and personally to the Commission.
Steve Shannon’s testimony is reprinted at On present course, future looks dim for mental health care providers
Business and government representatives also brought concerns and suggestions. Paducah Mayor Bill Paxton, who serves as Chair of the Kentucky League of Cities, urged more “home rule” for cities. He said restrictions on cities of varying classes based upon size restricts the ability to govern and raise revenue.
CPA Dean Owens who works with clients in multiple state jurisdictions advised that tax revision is not “rocket science.” He recommended looking to successful states and modelingKentucky’s tax code on theirs. Illinoisis an example of what not to do. Owens said he was approached by businesses looking to leave Illinoisbecause the state is raising taxes. Clients were interested inKentucky, but eventually chose to relocate toTennessee. That’s money that looked at Kentucky - then kept driving south, he said.
Owens said that decoupling Kentucky's depreciation schedule from the federal schedule was "dumb."
He emphasized that raising tax rates is counterproductive. People will pay up to a certain amount and no more." He said. After that, they hire accountants and lawyers to get around paying more.
Simplification of forms and elimination of sales tax exemptions was another area that came under scrutiny.Kentuckyhas a complicated web of tax exemptions that befuddle the average small business person. Finding out how to navigate through state government’s taxing structure has been a problem. A restaurateur asked the Panel to look into unemployment insurance rules.
Lt. Governor Abramson and his staff addressed the issue of navigating business relocation after the meeting. Abramson said that there is a “one stop” website for business. That site is www.onestop.ky.gov
Around 150 people came to the public hearing, although only twenty or so of those present testified. Speakers had to sign up in advance and written testimony is welcomed. However, those who made a last minute decision to speak were allowed to sign up the evening of the event. Each speaker was allowed five minutes to address the Commission.
The next public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 19th in the Greenwood High School Auditorium in Bowling Green.