by Senator Steve Meredith:
To my dear friends,
We are quickly approaching the halfway mark of this year's 60-day legislative session, and Frankfort was granted several days of pleasant weather. However, there was little time to enjoy the sunshine and warmer temperatures as lawmakers continued to work on policy that benefits our commonwealth’s rural communities.
The state legislature is the representative branch of state government. In each chamber in the state capitol is a voice representing you. Perhaps no piece of legislation in the 2022 Legislative Session exemplifies your voice being heard more than Senate Joint Resolution 99, a measure identified by the state Senate to bring motor vehicle tax relief to Kentucky taxpayers. Unlike a bill, a joint resolution does not modify law but carries the force of law.
Not every bill proposal impacts you at your dinner table or directly in your pocketbook, but a potential 40 percent increase in taxes on your car or truck is something many find directly in their mailbox and can understand is an injustice.
Because the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the global supply of automobiles, the assessed value on vehicles has been artificially inflated. Since motor vehicle property taxes are connected to the standard value of a car or truck, the tax burden has followed. That burden equates to nearly $70 million. The good news is, existing state law provides the executive branch with authority to right this wrong (KRS 132.485). The bad news is, Governor Andy Beshear has chosen not to utilize that authority and exempt Kentuckians from this pandemic-driven tax burden.
Given the Governor's enthusiasm for exercising executive authority — in some cases acting unconstitutionally and being admonished by state and federal courts — it is unclear why he would not exercise a statutory authority actually granted to the executive branch. Since his administration has chosen inaction, Senate Joint Resolution 99 would make the decision for him and require him to order the Department of Revenue to exempt taxpayers from inflated tax burdens. It would also grant immediate refunds to anyone who has already paid their motor vehicle tax this year.
As diligent review of the Governor and state House of Representatives budget proposals continue, please know my priority is not the state's bottom line, but yours. Because of billions of dollars in federal spending making its way into Kentucky, state revenues are at record levels. In the more extensive tax reform discussion, I am committed to finding other ways to keep more money in your pocket. Not a single penny of state funds came from anywhere other than hardworking taxpayers. You do not work for your government; your government works for you.
Senate Bill 42, which I personally sponsored, serves to cut food waste and aid in Kentucky's goal of providing nutritious food to those in areas with little access to food options. It allows local public agencies to contract or purchase through noncompetitive negotiation when the contract is for perishable foods such as meat, fish, poultry, egg products, vegetables, and more if the label specifies sale or consumption by a specific date. Contracts over $30,000 would have to be published in the local paper for bids.
Included below are some additional measures we passed in the state Senate in Week 6 of the session:
Senate Joint Resolution 72 directs the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services to apply for a Medicaid waiver from the federal government, providing additional services and support to improve the lives of individuals with severe mental illness. Joint resolutions, unlike bills, do not modify state statutes. They do, however, carry the force of law.
Senate Bill 101 makes it a misdemeanor for first responders—including coroners, EMTs, firefighters, rescue workers and police—to take a photograph or video of a deceased person at the scene of an accident or crime for any purpose other than those related to their official duties. Penalties would be set for no less than $500 and not more than $2,500. The bill also requires forfeiture of the device used to capture the photographs or videos.
Senate Bill 106 requires that every incorporated city operating as a public corporation and a unit of local government file with the Department for Local Government before September 1. Failure to do so timely could lead to dissolution.
Senate Bill 111 gives local governments the ability to save money and put taxpayer funds to use in ways they may identify as more beneficial. It loosens restrictions for local governments to use an independent consultant or financial advisor to determine if a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) has an economic value optional instead of required. In cases where a city or county elects to use an independent consultant or financial advisor, it requires the consultant or advisor to work with the city or county's budget office to develop the report and determine the methodology the report is prepared by.
Please be aware, I am here in Frankfort fighting for the best interests of our commonwealth’s rural communities. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments about these or any other public policy issues. You can contact me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or email me at Stephen.Meredith@lrc.ky.gov.
Note: Senator Stephen Meredith (R-Leitchfield) represents the 5th Senate District, which includes Breckinridge, Butler, Grayson, Ohio and Meade Counties. He serves as chair of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Resources and vice-chair of the Senate Standing Committees on Health and Welfare and Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection. Senator Meredith also serves as co-chair of the Government Contract Review Committee and Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee. Finally, he is a member of the Senate Standing Committees on Education and Appropriations and Revenue. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Sen. Meredith, please visit: https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate105.jpg