The public employee pension program is going bankrupt and Gov. Matt Bevin is calling for $350 million in budget cuts this fiscal year. Currently, Frankfort’s only solutions to these problems are to shift costs to local governments and to cut retirement benefits promised to teachers, police officers and all public employees.
The leadership’s commitment to not raise taxes on the state level is commendable, and a decision I completely support. But the shifting of costs to city and county governments will inevitably lead to an increase in taxes on the local level.
If you want to pay more local taxes to your school board, and more taxes to your city and county government, and the same amount of taxes to the state, this is a good plan.
It’s past time, however, for our state officials to at least discuss expanding our revenue base in ways that a majority of other states have already implemented with success.
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There are 29 states that have some form of expanded gaming, including five of the seven states that border Kentucky. Casinos have generated tax revenue for Indiana, and entertainment for many Kentuckians, for over 22 years.
According to a report by the Indiana Business Review, casinos added $5.9 billion in tax revenue from 1996-2008. That averages out to $583 million a year, with a sizeable amount of those funds going toward property tax relief for Indiana residents.
Kentucky gamers are keeping Indiana property taxes low while the leadership in Frankfort is making proposals that will inevitably raise the property taxes for Kentucky residents by shifting costs to local governments.
In addition to property-tax relief, revenue from casino gaming in Indiana makes up a sizable amount of funds for economic development with the “Build Indiana Fund.” Kentucky gamers have helped Indiana attract job opportunities that Kentuckians should be competing for.
If the commonwealth’s leadership doesn’t at least discuss the possibility of expanding gaming, they are not doing their job.
In addition to expanded gaming, many states are generating additional revenue by legalizing marijuana. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, 29 states now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs.
In Colorado, legalized adult use of marijuana has generated $70 million in additional revenue for the state. According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, the first $40 million of retail marijuana excise tax collections was distributed to the Colorado Department of Education’s Building Excellent Schools Today Program.
The excess excise taxes of $2.5 million in 2015-2016 were transferred to the public school fund. In addition to the Department of Education, over $20 million were distributed to other state departments, including the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the Department of Transportation.
There is no single solution for the current state of our commonwealth’s finances. However, it is evident that shifting the costs to local governments is not a solution; balancing our budget on the backs of those who have dedicated their lives to public service is not a solution.
And if the current leadership in Frankfort refuses to even discuss additional sources of revenue proven to be successful in other states, they are not looking at all possible solutions.
Chad G. Mattingly of Lebanon is Marion County Clerk.