Economy

Even as Air Force One was about to land in suburban Maryland this morning — bringing President Obama back from his vacation in Hawaii to resume negotiations aimed at avoiding the so-called fiscal cliff of automatic tax increases and spending cuts — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on the floor of the Senate warning that a dive off that cliff seems inevitable.

A state senator who represents parts of south-central Kentucky isn't betting on major changes to the state's tax code this upcoming legislative session. Overhauling what's been described as an antiquated tax system is at, or near, the top of many lawmakers' agendas.

Sen. David Givens, who represents Allen, Barren, Edmonson, Green, Metcalfe, and Simpson counties, says while there's a lot of talk in the air about streamlining Kentucky's tax code, he doubts anything will pass during the 2013 General Assembly.

"From what I gather, I don't think the tax reform issue is far enough down the road that we can make those sorts of changes in the session ahead, with it being a short session," the Greensburg Republican told WKU Public Radio.

A panel appointed by Gov. Steve Beshear to look at changes to Kentucky's tax system has proposed lowering individual and corporate tax rates, raising the cigarette tax and expanding the state sales tax to certain services.

Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson said the changes recommended by the Governor's Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform would generate about $659 million in new state revenue each year.

Abramson, who headed the commission, said the changes will make Kentucky more competitive in creating jobs.

The proposal would lower the state's top corporate tax rate to 5.8 percent from 6 percent. Individual income tax rates also would drop. The state's cigarette tax would go to $1 a pack from the current 60 cents.

Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell is reportedly signaling that he and fellow GOP Senators are open to a strategy that would likely lead to the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for the nation’s highest earners. The website Politico is reporting McConnell talked about Senate Republican strategy late last week during a dinner in Washington with lobbyists.

Citing multiple sources in the room, Politico reporters say McConnell told those in attendance that Senate Republicans were looking to take a “two-bill strategy” to resolving the fiscal cliff crisis. Under such a plan, two different bills would be advanced in Congress, giving each party the chance to vote on the approach they favored, while knowing only one measure will actually be signed into law.

Poltico reports McConnell suggested he believed Senate Republicans could support a bill that renewed the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the top 2% of wage-earners, and increased taxes on capital gains and dividends from 15% to 20%. At the same time, the GOP-led House would pass a second bill that would extend the Bush tax cuts for all Americans. Such a move could possibly allow House Republicans to save face with supporters who are against raising any taxes.

Kentucky and Ohio to Study Bridge Funding Options

Dec 12, 2012

The governors of Kentucky and Ohio have announced an agreement to work together to find the money to replace the outdated Brent Spence Bridge.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear agreed Wednesday to create a bi-state management team that will investigate funding options to replace the nearly 50-year-old span. The heavily used bridge carries traffic between the two states over the Ohio River and is considered obsolete.

Preliminary estimates for replacing the bridge run more than $2 billion.

The discussions relating to the so-called "Fiscal Cliff" in Washington have included a number of proposals about ways to raise tax revenue. One suggestion that is drawing concern among some charities would reduce the tax deduction for wealthy Americans to donate money to charitable organizations.


Kentucky's Blue Ribbon Tax Commission has wrapped up its work, but Governor Steve Beshear says the biggest challenge to revising the tax code still remains.

Tax reform is on the tip of the tongue every few years in Frankfort. But historically, not much has been accomplished. Beshear will get the commission's latest recommendations for tax reform this week. And it'll be up to him to convince lawmakers that the panel's work is worth turning into law.

The University of Kentucky's Departments of Forestry and Agricultural Economics recently announced the findings from an economic impact study on the wood and forest industries in the Commonwealth. The study found that Kentucky's forest industries contribute nearly $10 billion to the state's economy each year.

Dr. Jeffrey W. Stringer of the University of Kentucky says about three-fourths of the state's forests remain in private hands, and they continue to grow at a faster rate than they are being removed. The study found that the state's forest industries provide about 2.7 % of the jobs in Kentucky, with more than 24,000 people being employed by the logging and wood/paper industries.

U.S. Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are urging Gov. Steve Beshear to seek a federal disaster declaration because of the potential economic consequences of a drought that has led to low water levels on the Mississippi River.

Beshear said Friday he appreciates their concern and that he's closely monitoring the situation.

McConnell and Paul said in a letter to Beshear on Thursday that commercial traffic on the river could "come to a complete halt in coming days" unless the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers takes action to increase the water flow.

After a nearly year-long review, Kentucky's Commission on Tax Reform has approved recommendations that could generate nearly $700 million a year.

Some $500 million of that would come from individual income taxes. Another $200 million would be generated by expanding the state's sales tax to household utilities and several services that have traditionally been exempt.

Pages