Politics & Government

Bevin seeks expert lawyers to help create tax overhaul plan

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is looking for expert tax lawyers, apparently in anticipation of a possible special law-making session to overhaul Kentucky’s tax code later this year.

The state issued a solicitation letter April 5, saying the state budget director is “seeking the services of a legal advisor(s) with experience and knowledge” about taxation. The solicitation closes April 19.

The state Finance Cabinet, which issued the solicitation, declined to answer questions about it.

According to the letter, the vendor would issue an initial draft report on July 31 and make a final report about possible taxation options available by Sept. 30.

It is not clear when Bevin wants to hold a special legislative session, but lawmakers have said they doubt it will be this summer.

Only the governor can call a special session and set its agenda. The legislature determines how long it will last, though it takes at least five days to move a bill through the legislative process.

Bevin said in his State of the Commonwealth Address in early February that he will convene a special legislative session later this year to consider a tax overhaul and possible fixes for Kentucky’s ailing public pension programs.

“This is not going to be a revenue neutral tax plan. It’s not. We can’t afford for it to be. That’s a straight up fact,” Bevin said at the time, suggesting that he will ask lawmakers to approve an overhaul that raises more taxes than it cuts.

Legislative leaders responded cautiously, saying tax reform is possible this year but that much work remains to be done.

The solicitation said whoever is awarded the contract will research and assist the state budget director’s office with tax reform options.

“The vendor will research the Kentucky Constitution, federal, state, and local laws, and any other sources that will provide information about options available for various tax reform scenarios; including but not limited to, citations of authoritative law, regulations, court opinions, etc.,” it said.

“The vendor will participate in weekly meetings with the office of state budget director and provide draft reports of their research that will analyze options for various tax reforms of local and state laws.”

Bevin has said little about what he wants in tax reform, other than promising to cut the state’s inventory and estate tax.

Bevin said in February lawmakers must examine every aspect of the tax code and that there will be “sacred cows” that are turned into hamburger.

He said a new tax system must lower overall tax rates while broadening the base of people and companies that pay taxes. It must also be fairer and easier for the public to understand, the governor said.

In 2012, then-Gov. Steve Beshear formed a special tax commission, which members said would develop a plan to modernize Kentucky’s antiquated tax code and eventually produce at least $690 million a year in additional revenue. The legislature never acted on it.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics