Bluegrass Beacon – Tax plans, tax plans: Which is fairest of them all?

BluegrassBeaconLogoGetting rid of an unbalanced reliance on the income tax and moving to an approach that taxes consumption instead would brand Kentucky a state of producers rather than a commonwealth of punishers.

After all, what do personal and corporate income taxes accomplish other than funding government services and programs by punishing – and thus discouraging – individuals from producing and businesses from growing?

A proven free-market principle is: policies get more of what they encourage and less of what is discouraged.

States moving away from income-tax policies to approaches capturing revenue from purchases of products and services have more vibrant economies than their counterparts, most of which demonstrate only economic mediocrity.

Kentucky currently fits into the latter category, according to the Tax Foundation, which claims that 32 other states have a better business tax climate.

A common attribute among states ranking near the top of the foundation’s 2017 Business Tax Climate Index is that they don’t levy one or more of the major taxes: the corporate or individual income tax or the sales tax.

However, even some states holding onto all major taxes – like Indiana and Utah – rank in the index’s top 10 because they have greatly lowered their rates, albeit with broader bases.

North Carolina, meanwhile, moved from No. 41 on the foundation’s 2013 index to No. 11 in the latest ranking by enacting a flat tax with a relatively low 5.5 percent rate.

Any of these approaches is better than the current policy in Kentucky, which could follow these states’ lead or leap even higher by getting rid of income taxes altogether and raising the greatest portion of its revenue via consumers.

To opponents, however, such an approach would be too fair.

Their narrative is that consumer levies, like sales or flat taxes, treat everyone the same: the more you buy, the more tax you pay; the less you purchase, the lower your tax bill.

How, exactly, is that a problem?

Remember: fairness is not the ultimate goal of these defenders of the status quo. In fact, they don’t care for the fairness of a consumption-based tax at all.

Instead, they favor the Robin-Hood approach (apologies to Russell Crowe).

Implementing a policy whereby the commonwealth raises a significant amount of its revenue by taxing spending rather than producing removes the ability of these modern-day Robin Hoods to ambush producers in the rich forests of the Bluegrass State and redistribute their wealth to others.

However, citizens likely will ultimately resist their Bernie-Sanders-Elizabeth-Warren-Hugo-Chavez approach to tax policy when they understand the real benefits to them personally of a consumption-based tax policy:

  • Bigger paychecks.

Abolishing Kentucky’s state income tax would amount to an immediate increase in the size of many paychecks.

  • No more April 15 surprises.

Since all taxes owed would be paid during purchases in this pay-as-you-go system, there would be no complicated forms to file, unexpected bills or audits.

  • A built-in incentive for Kentuckians to save.

An income-tax policy means entire paychecks are taxed, regardless of how much is saved or spent.

Where’s the incentive to save in that approach?

A consumption-based levy taxes only what is actually spent and likely will result in less impulsive and more productive purchases.

Plus, lawmakers could lighten the burden on lower-income residents by opting not to tax food or medicine, which would give frugal shoppers who purchase only the basics the added advantage of paying even less in taxes.

What better ideas do opponents of a consumption-based tax offer for building healthier savings accounts and, with them, a stronger state economy and more independent and prosperous citizenry?

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read previous columns at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

Bluegrass Beacon: Tobacco-tax advocates suffer from policy schizophrenia

BluegrassBeaconLogoPaducah Sun executive editor Steve Wilson’s recent missive in favor of raising Kentucky’s cigarette tax by a Cuban cigar-sized 40 percent was in response to my recent column calling on policymakers to leave “any and all” tobacco-tax increases out of Frankfort’s tax-reform conversation altogether and instead focus on pro-growth opportunities.

Wilson offers arguments filled with policy schizophrenia that endorses unfair and unproductive policies of raising taxes on the backs of poorer Kentuckians – who are disproportionately impacted by cigarette taxes – while cloaking such passion for giving government more of taxpayers’ hard-earned money to spend within claims that it’s all about making our smoking-crazy state healthier.

Wilson may sincerely believe that raising cigarette taxes will create a healthier citizenry but fails to offer sufficient evidence showing when, where and how tax increases have brought about such changes.

In fact, smoking rates among Kentucky’s teens were already dropping dramatically even before the commonwealth last raised cigarette taxes, revealing that education and cessation campaigns are much-more-effective approaches to help address this unhealthy habit among our state’s young people.

While Wilson does offer a nod toward cessation funding, he totally ignores the effectiveness of hard-hitting education campaigns that display demonstrable success in preventing young people from lighting up in the first place.

He further confuses the issue with his contradictory same-sentence claim that a higher cigarette tax would both “generate more revenue for the state” while also causing a “decline in smoking that would follow higher prices.”

Logic alert: If we raise taxes and fewer people buy cigarettes, how does that generate “more revenue” for the state?

Instead, raising cigarette taxes results in deviant incentives whereby such tax hikes initially bring in some additional dollars resulting in new government programs staffed with new bureaucracies that must then find a way to financially survive when smoking rates and revenues decline.

Apparently, though, supporters of Wilson’s position believe they can get by with calling for tax increases that disproportionately affect the poorest citizens if it involves an activity for which society largely disapproves.

Not only does such a position directly contradict the most basic principles of liberty, which require the protection of minority groups’ rights to engage in legal activities, it’s just poor tax policy that genuine conservatives will reject out of hand.

“The reality is that most states support cigarette tax increases because they want more revenue,” the Tax Foundation states in a 2012 publication identifying trends in taxation.

The foundation’s report – released in the same year that former Gov. Steve Beshear’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform met and recommended raising the state’s cigarette tax rate, which Wilson points to in support of his position – concludes such taxes are ineffective because they result in “allowing the majority to shift the costs of government programs onto the minority,” which “can result in instability as citizens demand more government than they are willing to pay for.”

While Wilson also demands smokers be taxed more to cover smoking-related health costs, the foundation points to a series of studies to show that’s already happening, arguing that “nearly all the costs of smoking – health care, higher insurance premiums, lower productivity at work – are borne by smokers themselves.”

Smoking isn’t even close to the No. 1 problem in the eyes of most Kentuckians, which indicates there isn’t exactly a groundswell for big-government policies like higher cigarette taxes and forced smoking bans.

A January 2015 study in Northern Kentucky revealed that likely voters thought the heroin problem, for example, was a much-higher priority than a smoking ban by an 87 percent to 7 percent margin.

Again, a reminder for legislators preparing to address Kentucky’s tax code: that survey was taken of “likely voters.”

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute; Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

Bluegrass Beacon: Don’t be conned by the fool’s gold of cigarette tax hikes

BluegrassBeaconLogoThe new wrinkle in anti-smoking crusaders’ annual demand to raise Kentucky’s cigarette tax is that hiking taxes to fund the Medicaid expansion is somehow a better approach than moving able-bodied adults from government dependency to the fulfillment offered by work and independence.

Ironic, isn’t it, that these devotees are willing to raise a tax that will hurt poor Kentuckians more than any group while vehemently defending the status quo that keeps low-income citizens – the very group they claim to represent – dependent on a government program?

They often point to Indiana, where crusaders succeeded in convincing lawmakers to raise the cigarette tax by 44 cents in 2007 by agreeing to target the increased revenues to fund health insurance for lower-income Hoosiers.

However, these same proponents conveniently ignore the fact that Indiana’s current cigarette tax of 99.5 cents remains well beneath the state average of $1.65, and that sales dropped by nearly 18 percent – almost 100 million packs – in the first nine months following the hike.

While those results do reinforce the free-market maxim “what you tax you get less of,” they don’t exactly engender optimism that raising cigarette taxes by a whopping $1.50 would, as imagined by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, “be a stable source of additional revenue for the state.”

Rather, it’s fool’s gold.

State lawmakers should not be conned by this very political and ideologically liberal network into thinking raising cigarette taxes will increase and stabilize funding for Medicaid or any other government program, for that matter. This is, after all, the “network” that supported Obamacare even though it’s had a devastating impact on cancer patients.

Plus, it’s a distraction from thinking bigger concerning policies that simplify the tax code, encourage job creation and eliminate Kentucky’s dependence on revenue from corporate and individual income taxes, which are particularly harmful as they discourage productivity by punishing success.

What’s likely to happen if Kentucky increased its cigarette tax from the current 60 cents to the $2.10 per pack – as recommended by the network – is like what was predicted will now occur in Pennsylvania following lawmakers’ decision this summer to hike cigarette taxes by 63 percent to $2.60 per pack.

The Commonwealth Foundation’s Elizabeth Stelle argues the dramatic increase could actually cause tax revenue to decrease over time as consumers travel across state lines to purchase cheaper cigarettes.

“Tobacco taxes are not going to be enough,” Stelle told the Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News. “More people are going to go out of state to buy cigarettes, more smuggling of cigarettes is going to go on in the state, and possibly more people will be in the welfare system as they find it tougher to fund their habit and meet other daily needs.”

If there’s a concern that raising the cigarette tax will result in black market-type activity in Pennsylvania – which at $1.60 is already 22nd-highest in the nation and is either the same or lower than five of its six neighboring states – isn’t it prudent to address the possibility of such goings-on in Kentucky, where 40 percent of the population lives in a county bordering another state and where the kind of increase sought by pro-tax cheerleaders would jack up the tax from third-lowest to absolute highest among surrounding states?

Lawmakers should stay focused on following through with the common-sense reforms needed to improve our state’s overall tax policy and ensure the sustainability of Kentucky’s Medicaid program while leaving any and all cigarette-tax increases behind.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute; Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

Bluegrass Beacon: Super-size restaurant taxes fund tourism’s shiny new toys

BluegrassBeaconLogoAll taxpayers and restaurant owners of Shelbyville and Madisonville wanted this Christmas was to be left alone by pro-tax politicians and bureaucrats.

Nearly 3,000 of them even went to the trouble of signing Kentucky’s biggest Christmas list – a petition opposing Shelbyville’s planned super-sized restaurant tax, which the state allows what previously were considered fourth and fifth-class cities to pass in order to buy shiny new toys known as “tourism-related projects.”

Local politicians addicted to spending taxpayer dollars on nonessential street-scaping projects want to use the revenue raised from Shelbyville’s restaurant tax on items like a $4,000 light pole, $1,000 six-foot bench and $850 “litter receptacle,” according to city engineer Jennifer Harrell’s email to Mayor Thomas Hardesty outlining the costs of these requested toys.

Thousands of local residents and restaurant owners have made it clear: they’d rather keep their money and spend it as they – not some local mayor with visions of government-funded grandeur – see fit.

The unelected officials at local tourism agencies will have none of that, however.

These bureaucrats have cast a memory spell over elected officials to the point that some council members not only support such taxes but also minimize – or even forget – who earned and owns those dollars.

I had to remind Shelbyville councilman Bob Andriot concerning this matter as he wondered aloud while addressing local tourism officials at a recent council meeting: “Are these our dollars or your dollars?”

“They’re neither, sir,” I told him during the comment period.

They belong to local servers, who are the least able to afford losing them.

Bill Hisle, who owns five Cattleman’s Roadhouse restaurants in Kentucky, including one in Shelbyville, told me that servers in his restaurants – many of whom are single mothers – carry the burden of such taxes.

“People tend to stick to their planned budget when they go out to a restaurant, and they will continue to do so – by taking the tax out of servers’ tips rather than increasing how much they actually spend,” Hisle said. “Plus, it’s not as if Shelbyville is going to file for bankruptcy any time soon. The city has money in the bank.”

Some local politicians voted for this huge profligate tax apparently without even knowing how current revenues in their general funds are spent.

Madisonville city councilman Raymond Marion during a Dec. 7 council meeting had to pause during a tirade berating restaurant-tax opponents in his community to find out more about how current dollars actually are spent.

“There’s a lot of money that we spend out for tourism that comes out of the General Fund. Am I correct?” he wondered inquisitively while turning to other council members before restarting his diatribe.

Even though he had to ask in that open meeting whether or not the tax was even needed to relieve some phantom-like pressure on his city’s budget, he and three other council members still voted for it.

You can bet their constituents – like the hard-working ladies out at the local Country Cupboard (a favorite Madisonville lunch location of this columnist) or Skip and Teresa McKinley, owners and operators of McKinley’s Bread Store & Deli in downtown Shelbyville for 19 years – knew everything about their own budgets as they shopped for those gifts on their children’s and grandchildren’s lists this Christmas.

They likely will have less money available for those requests next Christmas as beginning Jan. 1 they will be forced to collect more from their customers – most of whom are local residents – in order to fund some shiny new garbage can at the top of the local tourism-agency’s list.

At least they’ll have an upscale bench on which to sit while resting from the heavy tax burden they carry and pondering how to keep their doors open.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

Bluegrass Beacon: Pension Grinch likely to pilfer more from taxpayers

BluegrassBeaconLogoThe more we hear from experts on Kentucky’s pension crisis, the clearer it becomes: no Black-Friday-type-of-deal exists to bail out the state’s retirement systems, which face a nearly $40 billion unfunded liability.

But Santa made an early visit this year to Kentucky Retirement Systems’ executive director Bill Thielen, whose board paid $38,500 to a Colorado search firm to find a replacement for Thielen, who previously announced he would retire at the end of 2015.

Not only were none – none – of the 20 applicants interviewed, the board decided in October to offer Thielen a contract extension, keeping him on the job until June 30, 2018, and hiking his salary by more than $43,000 a year.

There’s more irony in this situation than snow at the North Pole.

Thielen gets a 25-percent raise to lead a system that includes the Kentucky Employees Retirement System, which has only 17 percent of the funding needed to meet its future obligations to pensioners.

Thielen’s mammoth pay hike also stands in stark contrast to state workers who received a 1-percent raise this year.

Despite the fact that KERS is drowning to the point that it’s now cashing out investments to pay its pensioners, Thielen gets an extra present – a big increase in his own pension.

Kentucky Roll Call’s Lowell Reese estimates that considering Thielen’s age, life expectancy and long tenure in government, the KRS board not only gave Thielen a hefty raise, it essentially awarded him a quarter-million dollar bonus over his lifetime by spiking his pension.

So basically, he’ll get an additional $250,000 for two and a half years of work. Not a bad gig, if you can land it, or – as in Thielen’s case – hold onto it.

Along with that “bonus,” Reese notes that Thielen’s a double-dipper who’s cashing an estimated $66,000 pension check each year from his previous position with the Kentucky League of Cities and will get a projected $49,155 annual pension from his KRS tenure.

It all adds up to $115,000 a year in taxpayer-funded pension payments to the man who leads a secretive operation and who’s made little effort to bring accountability to a system now so out-of-control that it won’t be long before you will hear talk of a tax increase the size of which will dwarf the jolliest Santa or the positive hopes many have for the incoming Bevin administration.

More than $20 billion is needed just to raise all state retirement plans to the 80-percent funding level actuaries claim is healthy.

“Where are you going to get that kind of money?” Reese asks. “You can’t even borrow that. To really fix the problem, it’s going to take a mammoth tax increase unless they come up with a magic plan.”

Representatives of both the state workers’ and teachers’ plans have said they cannot invest their way out of the crisis.

What about growing our way out of it?

The Lexington Herald-Leader’s John Cheves reported during the recent gubernatorial campaign that the additional $579 million in tax revenue that Frankfort is forecast to receive through 2018 “is already more than spoken for.”

How can Kentucky’s economy grow big – and fast – enough to bring in sufficient revenue to rescue our pension system when there already are so many hands out clamoring for more funding that the surplus revenue will disappear faster than the Freedom From Religion Foundation can say “Merry Christmas?”

“Public pensions for state workers and school teachers might need a stepped-up $2 billion just to stay afloat,” Cheves reported. “And Kentucky will have to begin paying its share of expanded Medicaid, starting with an estimated $247 million.”

Taxpayers should dare Speaker Greg Stumbo or his fellow dinosaur-ic Democrats who still control the Kentucky House to talk taxes and new programs while at the same time opposing Bevin’s plan to shine the bright light of transparency on pension spending and investment practices along with implementing business-friendly policies like right-to-work and real tax reform to attract job creators who could provide at least some of that needed magic.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

News release: Shelbyville restaurant owners call proposed tax ‘absurd’ and ‘unfair’

For Immediate Release: Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015  BIPPS Logo_pick

Contact: Jim Waters @ 270.320.4376

(SHELBYVILLE, Ky.)  — Despite strong opposition by taxpayers and local business owners, the Shelbyville City Council plans to bring a proposed 3-percent restaurant tax back up tonight at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 315 S. Washington St. 40065.

The politicians and bureaucrats say revenues raised by the tax would be used for tourism and “tourism-related” projects.

Nearly 3,000 individuals have signed this petition opposing the tax, including 2,025 persons who reside within the 40065 zip code, which includes the city of Shelbyville.

Skip and Teresa McKinley, owners of McKinley’s Bread Shop and Deli in Shelbyville, strongly object to what they call “this absurd tax” and wonder how the money will really be spent.

“Tourism just bought a lovely home. Do they need another vehicle?”  Skip McKinley wrote in the comment section of the online petition.

“If the money can only be used for nonessential items, then the tax is nonessential,” Teresa McKinley told the Bluegrass Institute on Wednesday. “Just because the restaurant tax is part of the Kentucky tax code does not make it fair or right.”

The McKinleys, who have owned and operated their restaurant for more than 19 years, said the tax – which will drive total taxes on restaurant checks to over 9 percent – “not only hurts local folks who want to eat out, but hurts small business owners.”

The petition encouraged taxpayers to “look at our dilapidated city sidewalks, or the newly renovated tourism building located on Main Street (and) see for yourself where the council’s priorities lie,” the petition states. “You are a better steward of your money than they are.”

The petition also reminds: “None of these funds will go to the police, the fire department, or any other essential life government entity. These funds will be used at the pleasure of the council and the tourism commission for tourism purposes.”

Teresa McKinley expanded on the tax’s unfairness:

  • “It targets “only the people who eat in Shelbyville restaurants.”
  • “It also targets restaurant owners who have to figure out how to collect the tax, especially when you don’t have electronic point-of-sale registers.”
  • It “also adds more bookkeeping and paperwork.”

The Bluegrass Institute encourages concerned taxpayers and business owners make their voices heard.

“The only ones clamoring for restaurant taxes are a handful of politicians and the unelected bureaucrats they do back-room deals with,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said. “We encourage Shelbyville taxpayers and voters to contact council members and remind them of their opposition to this non-essential, non-productive and nonsensical tax.”

Council members’ contact information, including phone numbers, can be found by clicking here.

Note to media: The McKinley’s are available for comment at their restaurant until 2 p.m. today and then at tonight’s council meeting. They can be contacted at (502) 321-7632. 

Fiscal assault: Council, bureaucrats push 3-percent restaurant tax; refuse to say what projects will be funded by the revenue

Cattleman's RoadhouseIrish statesman John Philpot Curran gets credit for saying in 1790:“The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”

From that original, we get the more well-known version: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

We often think about that principle in terms of the constant attempts by federal and state governments to extract more of our hard-earned money in the form of taxes and fees.

But could it also be true of a local government?

The Shelbyville City Council after tabling a 3 percent restaurant tax in October has put the same tax on its agenda for this Thursday night’s meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Shelbyville City Hall, 315 S. Washington St. 40065.

What changed between when the council tabled the tax on Oct. 29 and the 5-1 decision on Nov. 19?

Little, apparently, other than according to the Shelbyville Sentinel-News, the commission apparently spent some warm-and-fuzzy time “interacting with the tourism commission.”

This, said councilman Bob Andriot, “made him realize how beneficial such a tax could be to small business owners,” the newspaper reported.

Perhaps Councilman Andriot should spend some more time “interacting” with business owners like Bill Hisle, owner of five Cattleman’s Roadhouse restaurants, including one in Shelbyville.

Perhaps citizens, including business owners in Shelbyville, should protect themselves from yet another tax by contacting Andriot and the other council members and expressing their pointed opposition, especially considering the council and tourism commission continues to refuse to indicate what specific projects this levy will fund.

All taxpayers have been told is that the revenue will be for nebulous “for tourism or tourism-related projects.”

You can find the council members’ contact information, including phone numbers, by clicking here.

Councilmember Jon Swinder at the Nov. 19 meeting cast the only vote against putting the tax back on the agenda, claiming there wasn’t even “adjustments to the amount” of the tax.

Some citizens, including restaurant owners, had requested that the council at least consider lowering the tax to 2 percent or 1 percent. Doing so would require two readings of the ordinance, whereas Thursday’s vote will be the second – and final – reading of a 3-percent tax.

Hisle told me that servers at his restaurant – many are single mothers – would carry the burden of the tax.

“People tend to stick to their planned budget when they go out to a restaurant, and they will continue to do so – by taking the tax out of servers’ tips rather than increasing how much they actually spend,” Hisle said. “Plus, it’s not as if Shelbyville is going to file for bankruptcy any time soon. The city has money in the bank.”

As Hisle notes, “this will be a taxable tax,” meaning the 6-percent sales tax will be figured on the cost of a meal plus the 3-percent restaurant tax.

The tax would increase the tax on restaurant tickets from the current 6 percent to 9.18 percent.

It should outrage hardworking taxpayers that unelected bureaucrats at the local tourism office reportedly have used revenues from nearby Simpsonville’s restaurant tax to fund their campaign to ratchet up taxes on Shelbyville restaurant customers.

And for what?  Now there’s the great mystery.

Perhaps the tourocrats don’t want to tell us because they plan on using the funds to fiscally assault taxpayers in yet another Kentucky city.

State Business Tax Climate: Even Illinois does better than Kentucky

Even with this overly-generous assessment of Kentucky’s business tax climate, five of the commonwealth’s seven neighboring states still rank higher, including Indiana at No. 8:

STATEBUSINESSTAXCLIMATEmap

Bluegrass Beacon: Bethlehem’s star passed through Frankfort before settling over Louisville on Election Night

BluegrassBeaconLogoAs part of his embarrassing Election-Night meltdown that’s garnering national attention, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, encouraged Democrats to find a Republican to thump over the head with a Bible the next morning.

After admitting he didn’t know whether Jesus was a Democrat or Republican, Stumbo astutely observed “Mary did not ride an elephant into Bethlehem that night” before calling on fellow partisans at the Frankfort Convention Center to “get up with me in the morning” and “go to the church and challenge those people about values and morals and talk about the things that this party was built upon.”

Strange.

It was desperate and very different from what happened – and didn’t happen – in Louisville where Gov.-elect Matt Bevin called on supporters to “take the high road” and “reach out to somebody you know was on the other side of this particular battle, this particular political equation.”

The difference might offer clues about why Bevin crushed Stumbo’s Democratic Party, winning 106 of 120 counties with an 85,000-vote margin.

It also indicates why the GOP is experiencing the kind of momentum for the 2016 campaign for House seats that the Kansas City Royals experienced beginning about the seventh inning of every World Series game – no matter how far behind they were.

Still, I find common ground with Stumbo on a couple of statements.

First, he said “there’s a dawn tomorrow that’s going to be brighter and better and bigger and more hopeful than maybe anything we could” before garbling the rest of his sentence.

I agree with the understandable part.

It’s as if Kentuckians are stirring out of a long slumber and beginning to regain the realization that they – not government, politicians, bureaucrats or lawyers – are constitutionally empowered and really can determine their own destinies.

I saw that in Shelbyville right before the election, where citizens filled their city council’s meeting room to protest a proposed 3 percent restaurant tax.

Restaurant owners along with other merchants and citizen-taxpayers of all political stripes came together and caused the proposed tax – scheduled for a final reading that night – to disintegrate right in front of us.

Like the mountains in Stumbo’s eastern Kentucky enclave, it’s a beautiful site to witness people using their power – especially when doing so fully annoys arrogant politicians and unelected bureaucrats trying to extract yet more money from the same hardworking taxpayers they’re called to serve rather than exploit.

The council heard from people who woke up and said: “It’s a new day. We’re taxed enough already; besides, we don’t even know what the revenue from this tax will be used for. All we know is that it will be some ‘tourism-related’ project.”

City council member Bobby Adriot had the audacity to claim that half the revenue raised would “go to the council and half would be tourism’s money,” referring to a likely illegal deal made by the council to split the monies in half with the local tourism commission.

State law requires all restaurant-tax revenue be used only for tourism-related projects.

“It’s your money,” the council member said at one point to the tourism-commission’s representative.

Uh. No sir, it’s not. It’s not her money, and it’s certainly not some unelected tourism-bureaucrat’s money.

It’s the people’s money, and you have no right to take it away from them – especially when no one even knows how it will be spent.

Second, Bevin’s political comeback is living proof of the absolute shininess of another Stumbo gem: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down in a ballgame; it’s how fast you get up.”

Chances are, after baptizing his concession sermon in sour-grapes juice, the Speaker may get a chance to test that advice himself following next year’s election.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

A better tax-rebate idea for ALL tourism projects — not just the Ark Park

Ark Encounter, which operates Noah’s Ark – a religious theme park slated to open in Williamstown in 2016 – likely will seek tax rebates from the incoming Bevin administration that it was denied by the outgoing Beshear administration.

Instead of Frankfort picking winners and losers, I asked in this Bluegrass Beacon column on the issue: “Shouldn’t state government just grant the same rebate to all companies creating tourism projects in the commonwealth?”

If Frankfort defends granting tax rebates to the Christian park, what will it do “if a group of zealous Muslims applied for a similar rebate for a park with the world’s largest monument to Mohammed? How many of those same people who defend the Ark park receiving tax rebates granted by the state because they believe in its message also would back a Muslim project benefitting from the same kind of break?”

Denying the Ark Park tax rebates because of its Christian message is absolutely wrong. But wouldn’t denying the same rebates for a similar project with a non-Christian theme be just as wrong?

So rather than granting tax rebates on a piecemeal basis — including to the Ark Park — let’s grant them to all companies creating tourism projects in the commonwealth.

Heck, all Kentucky companies and individuals need tax relief!