Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is calling the next legislative session a “make or break year” for the state’s public school system.
“I think we’ve hit the wall for increasing student performance and without some reinvestment in public education I think kids are going to lose out.”
Holliday is asking state lawmakers to restore per student funding to their 2009 levels during biennium budget discussions next year. He also says state grant funding needs to be restored. That will mean committing nearly $270 million dollars more to education for the next two years.
Holliday says the General Assembly can accomplish this through tax reforms and approving expanded gaming, two issues that have not made headway in the recent past.
Education will be competing with state pension and healthcare issues among the other state agencies that have seen cuts to their budgets.
Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo says he doesn't expect a tax reform package to be brought up for a vote in the current legislative session.
Stumbo told reporters Tuesday that such a package doesn't have the 60 votes necessary to pass in the House.
A special commission appointed by the governor proposed reforms that could generate about $690 million a year in additional revenue.
Stumbo said one of the proposals made by the commission could surface in days ahead as a method of shoring up Kentucky's weakening pension system for government retirees. That proposal calls for raising the cigarette tax from 60 cents to $1 a pack, which could generate $100 million for the pension system.
Kentucky lawmakers seemed eager to dig into another tax reform bill this year, but the chair of the latest tax reform commission says reform isn't likely coming soon.
Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson—who chaired the commission —and Mary Lassiter, the secretary of the cabinet, addressed lawmakers on the budget committees about the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Tax Commission.
Many lawmakers were eager to see a bill filed, even if tax reform is unlikely in this year's regular session. But Lassiter and Abramson implied that one was not likely anytime soon.
But State Rep. Jim Wayne, a Democrat from Louisville, who unveiled his own tax reform bill today, said he would still like the see the commission's suggestions in bill form.
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.