Editorials

Move quickly on tax overhaul

Yes, there's something a bit Dilbertian about forming a committee to study nine earlier studies, but we will stifle our inner Wally and congratulate Gov. Steve Beshear on getting the ball rolling on tax reform.

The goals that Beshear set out for a reformed system — fairness, competitiveness, simplicity, compliance, elasticity and adequacy — are spot on.

And it's great that he said reform should raise more money, rather than pussyfooting for political cover behind a revenue neutral approach.

The state desperately needs to bring in more revenue to pay for education, child protection, infrastructure and other vital public services, and raising more money should be a goal of tax reform.

Leading the still-to-be named blue-ribbon commission will be Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, whose consenus-building skills will get a workout.

We would like to see the legislature and Beshear go ahead and tackle tax reform this year rather than slash already bleeding state programs another 7 to 9 percent, as the governor has said will be necessary without more revenue.

There appears to be some sentiment among House leaders on both sides of the aisle for tackling tax reform this year, rather than waiting on Beshear's study commission or until after this year's legislative elections.

After all, this is not exactly an unexplored frontier. As Beshear also said, there have been nine studies of Kentucky's tax structure in the last 20 years.

On the other hand, there is value in the kind of public process Beshear outlined last week that would have a reform plan ready for consideration by the end of this year.

With the aid of an expert consultant hired to take a fresh look at what's working in other states, a cross-section of Kentuckians that should include prominent lawmakers could help develop the kind of public understanding and support that finally propel a long-standing idea like tax reform onto the books and into reality.

Beshear has spent the last four years saying he didn't want to tinker with the tax system at a time when so many Kentuckians were suffering economically.

Beshear must think the economy is perking up, and there are some encouraging indicators. Regardless of what happens in the next few months, however, shoring up and streamlining our antiquated tax system is necessary to putting Kentucky on better economic footing for the long haul.

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