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Op-Ed: Republicans Treated Teachers' Retirement Like Sewage

As a candidate for state representative, I observed with amazement the utter dysfunction the 2018 Kentucky General Assembly session.  

The dysfunction is more than public pensions and the budget. This dysfunction includes a lack of transparency, lack of concern for what makes for great communities within the Commonwealth, and a lack of vision for the Commonwealth.

My opponent, Rep. Joe Fischer (R-Ft. Thomas), has contributed to this dysfunction by his “go along—get along” attitude with the current legislative majority rather than considering the impact of proposed legislation on the all of the people of his district, Campbell County, and Kentucky.

Two of the top five public school districts are in the 68th District.  

Public education is important to the communities of the 68th District of Campbell County. Yet the people of Campbell County’s 68th district do not have a state representative who is interested in their public schools and Northern Kentucky University.  

Rather than looking for new sources of revenue for state government, Joe Fischer rejected the opportunity.  

Instead, Fischer voted to cut the income tax exemption for retirees by $10,000 (after voting to eliminate it entirely). He voted to impose sales taxes on 17 services used by middle and lower income persons from bowling to small animal vet services. At the same time, he voted to lower taxes on corporations from 6 percent to 5 percent.

My opponent’s vote for tax increases on the middle class will not balance the budget. The governor’s budget director, John Chilton, said Kentucky will be short over $50 million during the 2018-19 fiscal year.

One of the biggest issues facing Kentucky is new sources of revenue. In the 21st century, state government needs to formally discuss such things as expanded casino gambling and taxes on marijuana as well as creation of higher-paying jobs in all 120 counties.  

The legislative majority rejected one such opportunity in its failure to consider the casino gambling bill filed by Rep. Dennis Keene (D-Wilder). Joe Fischer, as chair of the Judiciary Committee, had the power to promote HB 166 concerning sale of taxation of medical marijuana but failed to do so.  

Closing tax loopholes and incentives are a possible source of revenue. Is it fair that the property tax rate on a 21-foot bass boat is greater than on a $250,000 house boat?

Kentucky legislators had 60 days in 2018 to consider the issue of public pensions and tax reform. Under the committee system, hearings could have been held prior to January 2018 to hammer out good legislation. Instead, Republican members of the legislature went behind closed doors in late March using SB 151 (a sewer bill) to craft so-called pension reform for teachers and other public employees.

In doing so, they insulted the hard-working men and women who serve our Commonwealth in positions of public trust by treating their retirement like sewage.

Jason Kilmer is a Democrat running for state representative in the 68th House District