Posts Tagged ‘Kentucky Tonight’

Digging into the Details of Tax Reform

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Pretty much everyone agrees the state tax system is broken. Finding agreement on specific ways to reform it is the hard part.

Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight explored ideas for updating the tax system in the Commonwealth. The guests were Representatives Jim Wayne (D-Louisville) and Tim Moore (R-Elizabethtown), along with Western Kentucky University economics professor Brian Strow, and Jason Bailey, director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Gov. Steve Beshear’s tax reform proposal focuses on lowering personal and business taxes, and expanding the 6 percent sales tax to certain services. His plan is based on recommendations made by a special commission he formed in 2012 to study options for tax reform. The group was charged with developing a new system for taxation that would be equitable, easy to understand and follow, generate sufficient income for government coffers, and make Kentucky competitive with other states. Brian Strow said that last goal is crucial for the economic health of the Commonwealth.

The representatives differed on how they view the prospects for passing tax reform in this session. Moore said he doesn’t see the necessary political momentum to deal with the issue, especially since no specific legislation has been proposed yet. Wayne said he hopes the governor can bring legislative leaders together to hammer out some kind of reform package that lawmakers can vote on before the session ends in mid April.

Watch the full Kentucky Tonight discussion.

Minimum Wage Increase Raises Questions

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

I opened Monday’s Kentucky Tonight discussion on increasing the minimum wage by saying viewers might be disappointed if they tuned in to learn if raising wages kills jobs and causes layoffs.

I said that because The Atlantic recently reported on its website that researchers have been arguing about that question for a century. One of the first major government studies on the matter was conducted in 1915. Reporter Jordan Weissmann says the connection between minimum wage increases and job losses is still murky. When economists study a minimum wage hike, he says they generally find it either creates a small number of job losses or leaves employment untouched.

Kentucky lawmakers are considering an increase to the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour over the course of three years. Proponents of House Bill 1 say the legislation would be a turning point for thousands of workers who are struggling to make ends meet. Opponents argue that raising the wage would kill jobs, cause some businesses to increase the cost of their products, and force others to lay off employees.

Both sides in this current debate brought their arguments – and their studies – to the table last night. Anna Baumann, a research and policy associate with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, and Bonifacio Aleman, executive director of Kentucky Jobs with Justice, support the proposal. Stacy Roof, president and CEO of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, and Tod Griffin, president of the Kentucky Retail Federation, oppose HB 1.

Here’s a sample of our conversation.

Click here to watch the full Kentucky Tonight discussion about the minimum wage.

Recapping the Smoking Ban Debate

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

How far are you willing to let government go to regulate a legal activity?

That was a key question that arose in Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight as those for and against a statewide smoking ban engaged in a spirited debate.

“I don’t like smoking, I’m not a smoker, and I dislike it,” said Jim Waters, president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions and an opponent of a ban. “But I dislike even more government telling a private property owner that they can’t allow a legal activity on their property.”

Dr. Shawn Jones, past president of the Kentucky Medical Association said that government already regulates private property owners through laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. He said making an establishment accessible to those in wheelchairs is similar to making it accessible to individuals with other health issues.

“Many courts in other states have decided that if I have asthma or reactive airway disease, and you allow smoking in your restaurant, you are barring access to me just as surely as if there was not a wheelchair-accessible ramp,” Jones explained.

“No one is forced to go into these establishments,” countered Ken Moellman of Northern Kentucky Choice. “It is an individual choice.” He said his group is promoting a labeling system for businesses the clearly tells people that the establishment allows smoking and that patrons assume any health risks by entering it.

Ashli Watts, manager of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, which supports a ban, emphasized the proposed law isn’t just to protect patrons, but employees as well. She said the Chamber isn’t advocating for any additional unnecessary regulations, but that government does have a role in preserving the health and well-being of its citizens.

“For us this is no different than us telling a private restaurant owner or a private bar owner they must serve clean water or they must serve clean food,” Watts explained. “And, yes, smoking is a legal activity, but so is drinking alcohol. However when someone drinks alcohol and then gets behind the wheel and it could affect someone else’s health, that’s when government has a right to step in and take care of that other person.”

Which led Waters to ask how far citizens are willing to let government go to regulate legal behaviors.

House Bill 173, a statewide smoking ban proposed by Rep. Susan Westrom (D-Lexington) to cover public places of business and employment, is currently before the House Health and Welfare Committee. Sen. Julie Denton (R-Louisville) has said she will file a similar bill in the Senate.

Click here to watch the full Kentucky Tonight discussion.

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