Keep pension information secret to protect seniors
Citizens deserve to know that government is working for them. Senate Bill 6 and House Bill 48 support this need by disclosing state retirees' pension benefits. While Americans hold income as immensely private, public employees are the exception, and for good reasons. We sacrifice this slice of our personal privacy to best serve our communities.
Citizens deserve a reasonable level of privacy. These bills undermine that right. Scammers prey on the elderly. If the legislature gives identity thieves and fraudulent hucksters the name and income of every Kentucky retiree, will the state pay for identity theft monitoring and compensation for retirees victimized as a result?
Our lifelong civil servants deserve better. If we don't keep our promises to our retirees, Kentucky will not be able to attract and retain the highest-quality employees in the future.
I ask the legislature to rewrite these bills, balancing government transparency and personal privacy. Study how education shares insight into academic success through aggregation of data, without exposing individuals' records.
Explore anonymized reporting-but beware of search criteria or results that could allow identities to be deduced. Partner with open-government groups and privacy watchdogs to strike the right balance. Release personally identifiable information only in response to a subpoena.
If that is too much work, then at least limit the data to the essential. Limit reporting to three years. This will still meet the goals of this bill, while reducing impact on retirees as they age.
Until these bills are fixed, please vote against SB 6 and HB 48.
Not sure this is tax reform
There is no doubt that the state of Kentucky needs more tax revenue. The question is how do we go about it.
According to the Feb. 5 article, Gov. Steve Beshear's proposal would raise an additional $210 million. He would accomplish this by imposing the 6 percent sales tax on services, raising the cigarette tax to $1 a pack, changing the rules on state income tax filing status, eliminating the individual income tax credit and raising taxes on retirees.
These changes would raise some $687 million.
But while there are increases on the losers there are decreases on the winners. The net result is that the $687 million increase would be offset by cuts of $477 million, most of which goes to business. Interestingly, The New York Times just came out with a study that reveals that Kentucky already provides tax benefits of $1.41 billion to corporations such as Toyota, Ford, G.E., General Motors and many others.
Yet these additional tax cuts for business are justified as "making Kentucky more competitive." This, in spite of the fact that the governor's own Blue Ribbon Tax Commission found that Kentucky was very cost competitive with seven of the nine states surrounding us.
Increases in the sales tax are by their nature regressive. The proposed changes in the way the state income tax will be calculated are also regressive. I believe in tax reform, but I question whether the proposal currently being floated is worthy of the name.
Why is coal left out?
At the bottom right hand corner of the Herald-Leader chart summarizing tax increases and tax decreases that the governor proposes, tax breaks amounting to $49 million are suggested for "Kentucky's signature industries, including horses and bourbon."
What would coal have to do to join that exclusive club? Or is it by invitation only?
Frank X. Delzer
Set students on right track
The National Assessment of Educational Progress report, as outlined in the Jan. 29 article, "Report: A large majority of Ky. kids aren't reading proficiently by fourth grade," says two-thirds of Kentucky's fourth-graders are reading at a level below "proficient."
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday responded that this was too high a standard; after all, proficient means the student is on track for college and career readiness.
On which readiness track does Holliday expect our students to be? That leading to permanent public assistance? Adult illiteracy? Lifetime unemployment?
He's concerned about gaps in student achievement. When 67 percent of the students for whom he is responsible are failing to learn basic life skills, he should be concerned that the entire system is catastrophically broken and needs to be completely overhauled.
Someone please explain to me why the leader of education in Kentucky should still be employed in that capacity.