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UPDATED: Bevin Says He’ll Veto Budget, Tax Reform Bills

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin says he will veto the entire two-year state budget and revenue bills passed by the legislature last week, saying that the tax plan isn’t comprehensive enough and the budget spends too much money.

The budget passed by the legislature included about $600 million more in spending than the spending plan proposed by Bevin back in January.

Most of the spending increases went towards K-12 schools and higher education, which education advocates say still received cuts but were funded at higher levels than in Bevin’s budget.

During a press conference on Monday, Bevin said that the legislation comes up short.

“It’s why we have to get tax policy done that is sound. That is comprehensive. So we can actually pay for all the things we need and want to spend money on,” Bevin said.A week after the Kentucky General Assembly passed a new two-year budget and a tax reform bill, Gov. Matt Bevin said on Monday he will veto both measures.

Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature has passed a budget that cuts much of state government in order to put more money into the state’s ailing pension systems. Lawmakers also approved about $680 million in new revenue by expanding the sales tax to 17 services ranging from auto repair to country club memberships and raising the tax on cigarettes.

During a news conference on fiscal responsibility Monday, Bevin said the legislature didn’t adequately budget for expenses like Medicaid, corrections or the Kentucky Wired broadband initiative.

The tax bill passed by the legislature last week raises some taxes and lowers others — it would expand the sales tax to 17 new services, eliminate some income tax exemptions and creates a flat five percent tax on corporate and individual incomes.

The tax bill — which nets about $487 million in new revenue — amounts to a tax cut for wealthier people and businesses, but a tax hike for middle-income and poorer people.

An estimate by the Washington-based Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy estimates that the tax plan would give the wealthiest one percent of Kentuckians an average tax cut of more than $7,000 per year while those making less than $21,000 per year would pay about $93 more per year.

The median per capita income in Kentucky is about $25,000 per year.

Bevin applauded lawmakers for trying to pass a tax reform package, but said it wasn’t comprehensive as it needs to be.

“These are all things that I’ve been advocating for in some respects, but as it relates to these services, I think perhaps a little different level of thought,” Bevin said.

“There’s a whole lot of services that are capable of being taxed. Some of those that were chosen, I don’t know that I follow the logic behind.”

Among the 17 new services that would be tagged with the six percent sales tax are automotive repairs, pet grooming and boarding, janitorial services, gym memberships and dry cleaning.

Once Bevin officially vetoes the bills, lawmakers might try to override his vetoes when they return for the final two days of the legislative session next week.

The state constitution requires lawmakers to pass a balanced budget. If they don’t override Bevin’s vetoes, they would either have to pass a new budget in either the final two days of session or a special legislative session, which would have to be called by Bevin.

Bevin also applauded the legislature for passing a bill that changes pension benefits for current and future state employees, but said it didn’t go far enough

“I applaud those men and women who are courageous enough in the face of a whole lot of people encouraging them to do nothing at all, that they at least did something. And something is better than nothing,” Bevin said.

This story has been updated.

Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives. He's covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin. He has a bachelor's degree from the University of Chicago and a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas. He grew up in Lexington.

Email Ryland at
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