Kentucky Senate Changes Special Taxing District Reform; House Objects
Changes to a bill reforming how special taxing districts operate in Kentucky could kill the legislation in the final days of the General Assembly session.
State Sen. Damon Thayer, a Georgetown Republican and the majority floor leader, introduced the changes in committee on Wednesday which give local governments veto powers over possible rate increases by special districts. Those changes later passed off the Senate floor.
Special taxing districts are usually sewer districts, library boards or other quasi-governmental public service entities.
Auditor Adam Edelen—the main promoter of the reforms—said the changes were completely unacceptable.
"There's not an ounce of daylight between the speaker and I on this issue and I'm not going to go back on my word that was given to so many of the good people who've been a constructive part of this process," Edelen said, referring to House Speaker Greg Stumbo.
The House has already approved legislation that did not include Wednesday's Senate changes.
In November, the auditor's office released a report that said half of Kentucky's special taxing districts aren't following rules on filing budgets or submitting audits. But those districts, the report said, spend more money than Kentucky spends on Medicaid or infrastructure.
On Wednesday, Edelen called the changes as acceptable as "Christian Laettner on the floor of Rupp Arena." And Stumbo confirmed that his chamber would not agree with the amendments after the bill passed the Senate today.
Thayer said he's not going to negotiate further changes to the bill in the news media. He said he's already compromised by not including full fiscal court oversight of the districts.
That would even include in his district, where a new water project to help modernize water systems in southern Kenton County required a new fee from a water district in that county. If the county had vetoed the plan, the updates would not happen. But Thayer said he trusts fiscal courts with such abilities.
Thayer said he added the provision because it's important to his constituents.
"So this has been a big issue in parts of my district and parts of the Northern Kentucky region that I represent. And I want more oversight," Thayer said.
The bill is likely to go to conference committee to be resolved.