There’s an obscure statute in Kentucky law that requires a special legislative session if spending reductions required to balance the budget exceed ten percent. Despite meeting this threshold, Spectrum News reported yesterday the Governor and General Assembly have agreed a special session won’t be necessary to resolve the gap between revenues and expenditures in Kentucky’s Road Fund.
That’s good news for struggling families. They’ve been spared higher taxes at the gas pump – at least for the remainder of the year.
The Road Fund doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. It pays for Kentucky’s roads and bridge construction and is funded by gas taxes we pay at the pump, sales taxes paid on the cars and trucks we buy and the numerous fees paid for vehicle licensing and registration.
The state’s road contractors and their allies in the state Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky League of Cities and Kentucky Association of Counties have lobbied hard for years for higher gas taxes to meet their demands for more spending that benefits their membership. Even with nearly 40% of the state’s workforce applying for unemployment, these groups remain motivated.
Even during these uncertain times, there is support for thoughtful investment in transportation. While competitor states/cities continue to find ways to fund improvements to their transportation systems, Kentucky falls behind. The time to act is now.
The Kentucky Highway Contractors followed with their own tweet:
The time to act is now to address the funding crisis facing Kentucky’s transportation program.
Well, allow me to retort! (Credit: Samuel L. Jackson “Pulp Fiction.”)
This “funding crisis.” Kick Start Kentucky and the Highway Contractors have lamented for years that the state spends only $1.5 billion a year and have called for $1 billion in higher taxes and fees to fuel more government spending in future budgets. Even with the adjustment by the Consensus Forecasting Group, Kentucky’s Road Fund will spend $1.3 billion this fiscal year. That’s a lot of money for a state the size of Kentucky. It isn’t as much spending as the Kick Start Kentucky coalition would like, but to call the current situation a “crisis” is laughable.
Both messages saying “the time to act is now” suggests these organizations were pressing for an increase in the gas tax to be part of the special session. It is hard to imagine there is majority support for raising taxes in the midst of record high joblessness and one of the deepest recessions the nation has ever confronted. But don’t count it out as a possibility.
A number of House Republicans and Democrats have signed on to legislation to raise the gas tax in each of the last three regular General Assembly sessions. Governor Beshear hasn’t endorsed higher gas taxes but he hasn’t ruled it out.
These unprecedented circumstances worked in favor of stopping new taxes in the short term. These organizations, however, are playing a long game and won’t quit until Kentuckians are sending more from their family budgets to their member’s bottom lines. Or, Frankfort policymakers finally tell these groups their constituents are taxed enough.