Taxing pensions could encourage retirees to leave
The state of Kentucky has a financial problem because the public employees pension fund is grossly underfunded.
Past legislatures, under pressure from employee unions, have agreed to pensions we could not afford. Now we have two choices: increase taxes so we can fulfill these outlandish demands or we reduce the pensions, which we should never have agreed to in the first place.
The plan being proposed includes taxing much of the pension income for retirees.
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In other words, those who responsibly contributed money to a private pension plan now have to bail out retired state government employees. But just to be clear, retired teachers and state employees also will have their pensions taxed.
The paper has printed columns in favor of taxing retirees' pensions. Where is the outrage?
There was a time when the media acted as an overseer of government and looked out for citizens. This is an extremely regressive tax; retirees would have no way to replace money confiscated by the state.
Seniors can easily move to a state that does not extract an income tax, such as Florida.
For each retiree who sells a house and moves, one fewer new house will be built. Each new house involves about three man-years of labor. So, three fewer people are employed and one less home is on the tax rolls.
Pensioners now pay real estate, school and sales taxes and consume few government services relative to taxes they pay. Are you sure you want to encourage this group to leave our state?
Things I've learned since moving to Kentucky: If schools don't perform to expectations, it's the teachers to blame. If the university football team falls short, it's poor coaching. If the basketball team misses a beat, it's all the fault of the players.
Appeal to patriotism
Sen. Mitch McConnell recently used the Tea Party salutation, "Dear Patriot," in sending a letter to supporters.
The letter proceeded to criticize President Barack Obama's proposal to reinstate the Clinton-era tax rate imposed on annual taxable earnings above $250,000.
Since the letter describes the proposal as one to raise "your taxes," it apparently was sent to those of the senator's supporters who are in the top income brackets.
A patriot is someone who is ready to sacrifice for his or her nation. Yet the only sacrifice asked by the senator in his letter was a requested contribution to his re-election campaign.
Truly patriotic Kentuckians whose incomes and wealth have benefited the most from our economy should recognize the fairness of being asked to carry a burden that better reflects their advantaged status.
Similarly, all patriotic Americans should ask the president to stick to his insistence that the tax rates on the top two percent be restored to Clinton-era levels.
It is time for McConnell to stop his road blocking and sandbagging tactics to shift budget deficit burdens further onto the shoulders of the middle class and the poor.
No excuse on hemp
The most recent statement from the Kentucky State Police about hemp is off more than ever. They say they won't be able to tell pot from hemp.
If you have ever been next to the two plants you can tell them apart. Not to mention you can grow plants free of THC, which gives the high. They don't even know the newest advancements but keep talking. If you find some plants growing and they don't have an agriculture permit to grow, that would be illegal.
In knowing these things, is the state police's job going to get harder or easier? I think the University of Kentucky should have a basic agriculture class and a state economics class for officers.
The state police department seems to be left out of the loop. That is unfair to the state police and the citizens of Kentucky.
Remember one other thing. Outdoor grown hemp can ruin any outdoor marijuana. Cross pollination will destroy any outdoor crop.
A recent story in the Herald-Leader said the state destroyed millions in outdoor pot. What if we let Mother Nature and the bees do it? We are also in the process of developing a plant that will sterilize a plant by way of cross pollination.
Protect cancer funding
The fiscal-cliff discussions in Washington could have a real impact on people here in Kentucky with life-threatening diseases such as cancer. As a cancer survivor, I hope that as lawmakers try to get the country's financial books in order, they protect the federal funding necessary to sustain the fight against the disease.
Federal funding has been at the core of virtually every major advancement against cancer. Sweeping cuts to the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the Prevention and Public Health Fund could jeopardize progress we have made in preventing, treating and curing the disease.
The federal funding available for cancer research and prevention programs has already been cut. As a result, researchers in labs across the country have been shrinking their budgets and reducing staff. Promising grant proposals have been left unfunded. Patients have been turned away from clinical trials and fewer low-income, uninsured women have had access to lifesaving mammograms.
If the budget cuts scheduled for this January are carried out, the effects on patients here at home would be devastating. When debating solutions to the fiscal cliff, I urge Sen. Mitch McConnell to consider what's at stake for families impacted by cancer that might be counting on the next big breakthrough in treatment or relying on federally funded local programs for cancer screenings.
Let's not turn back the clock on progress made in the fight against cancer.
Volunteer, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Give ex-felons a break
I'm writing this from the perspective of an ex-offender who's attempting to put my life back on track by getting a job and becoming a productive citizen.
I have discovered that too many employers won't even consider someone with a criminal record, regardless of the nature of the crime, the circumstances of it or the time since the offense/arrest.
I didn't expect that finding work would be simple. However, even the places that are hiring for the work I have experience doing, I either can't get an application, or once they see felony conviction, I'm looked at as if I came from another planet.
There's the misconception that, having served your time, a person has in fact paid a debt to society. I'm here to say that nothing could be further from the truth because I've been paying ever since, in one form or another. When does the so-called second chance apply?
It's almost laughable how, when ex-offenders re-offend or end up back in prison for whatever reason, the label that's almost automatically associated with them is "anti-social" or "habitual offender."
And yet in almost no instance is it ever considered just how many of their options they truly exhausted or how many employers actually turned them away or refused them jobs. This minimizes recidivism how exactly?
Here's your way out
I was somewhat astonished to read that hundreds of thousands of citizens in all 50 states have signed petitions expressing their desire for their state to secede from the union.
It's not going to happen. It's irrational to believe that states who voted for Barack Obama would give a second's thought on the topic and the states who voted for Mitt Romney typically get more back in federal benefits than they pay in federal taxes. So they won't consider it, either.
Obviously these people are not true patriots who love the Constitution. Otherwise they would respect the results of an election where the candidate won more states, votes and the Electoral College. I think it's fair to point out that after President George W. Bush won in 2004 you didn't hear Democrats whining about seceding.
So for all those sore losers, there is a solution. Federal law allows a citizen to renounce their citizenship. All you have to do is travel to a foreign country and appear at an U.S. embassy or consulate in person and sign a letter to that effect.
Simple isn't it? You would be demonstrating the depths of your conviction and getting away from the Kenyan Muslim/socialist/communist usurper who won the election.
Of course you'll have to find a country that will accept you. May I suggest Dumbellistan?
Those of us who were able to attend the Celebration of Song program last Sunday at Victorian Square experienced one of the wonderful new traditions in Lexington.
Thanks to the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre, UK College of Fine Arts and Alltech for supporting this evening of beautiful Christmas music, incredible talent (including Lexington Catholic graduates Catherine Wright and Clay Thompson), and for enhancing the town-gown relationship between the city of Lexington and the University of Kentucky.
Let's hope it stimulates more events and activities that will make Lexington an even better place to live.
Lexington Catholic High School
Too many police
The state is now running out of money to pay employee pensions, including for Kentucky State Police retirement. The city of Lexington is also unable to pay for police and fire retirements. Do you see a pattern?
The simple solution is to hire fewer police. Police hiring has reached a saturation point. Policing works up to a point, and when more police are hired than is necessary they reach a point where there is not enough crime to justify spending levels.
That is when they have to start preying on the public in order to justify their numbers. They set up roadblocks and stings, along with silly levels of traffic enforcement, and increase petty arrests.
The solution to our budget shortfall is to stop the insane levels of police hiring that we obviously cannot afford and do not need.
Unions: holiday Grinch
Congratulations goes to the big union of Hostess Bakeries for earning the honor of being this year's Christmas Grinch.
It successfully closed a major "greedy" company which has resulted in a sad Christmas for thousands upon thousands of former employees and their families.
Union officials can be proud of this accomplishment as they drive their foreign vehicles, made by low-wage earners, to grandma's house for Christmas.
As they feed their faces with a bountiful Christmas dinner, they can brag about the great bargain they got on large flat-screen TVs, again made by low-wage earners, while thousands of jobless workers and their families wonder where their next meal will come from.
By the way, as they toast the New Year with imported beverages, they should think about the nationwide movement for right-to-work laws, as was the case in Indiana and more recently in Michigan.
There are now 24 right-to-work states, with the number growing each year. Unions officials should enjoy themselves while they can.
Lest I forget: Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.