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Gov. Bevin to Veto Tax, Budget Bills

Governor Matt Bevin announced Monday that he will veto the tax and budget bills passed by the Kentucky General Assembly. He did not say whether he would veto the controversial pension reform bill.

Bevin hosted a news conference in Frankfort on Monday. Watch it in full:

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Debate over both bills drew thousands of people from the education sector to the state capital in recent weeks, forcing multiple school districts, including some in Northern Kentucky, to close.

The veto plan drew varied reactions.

Republican leaders of the House and Senate issued a statement against the governor's announcement.

“We believe Governor Bevin is misguided in his interpretation of the budget and the revenue bills, as we are comfortable with LRC staff revenue projections," said Senate President Robert Stivers and House Speaker pro tem David Osborne in a joint statement. "To our knowledge, the Governor has had no discussions with any legislators on the details of this budget and what he might consider to be a shortfall. We believe Governor Bevin would be best served to meet with legislators to understand their thoughts and rationale before making a final decision on vetoing the revenue and/or budget bills.”

"Gov. Bevin's veto creates another opportunity for legislators to save money and save lives. Raising the cigarette tax by at least $1 would reduce public health care expenditures and help create a healthier, more competitive workforce," stated the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow in a news release.

"Treating smoking-related illness in Kentucky costs $1.92 billion annually, nearly $590 million of which is paid for through Medicaid. Raising the cigarette tax an additional $1, to $1.60 per pack, would keep Kentucky's tax competitive with border states, and would lead to nearly 55,000 fewer smokers and savings of $1.07 billion in long-term health care costs for the state. These cost savings would outweigh declines in revenue over time as the tax reduces smoking rates, creating a net budget gain."

State Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder), who criticized the process in the legislature that led up to both bills' passage, sees a new opportunity.

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This story may be updated.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher