In the past few days there has been much discussed of "secret meetings," "bill drafting" and "betrayal" in reference to the meeting of myself and other Democrats with the governor and his staff last week. In response to such insinuation, I would remind those critics that as a member of the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, my record will show that I have been a supporter of tax reform, now called "Tax Modernization," since 1999. The A & R Committee has had numerous meetings over the last several years and many proposals and recommendations presented to us in an ongoing effort to solve this looming problem. As a witness to this developing crisis, I have had repeated discussions over the years with former Governor Patton's staff, Democratic leadership, A&R Committee members and fellow legislators requesting that we somehow develop a plan to reform the tax system and offset the burgeoning economic crisis in this state. Such a plan could have been discussed in the 2000, 2002, 2003 or 2004 sessions, but no such plan ever came to fruition during that period of time.
It is a matter of tradition that all new governors, at the beginning of their first session, will call ALL the members of the General Assembly in to meet and greet them, to get to know them personally, to ask of their interest and concerns for their districts, and also to discuss the governor's own interest and concerns as he begins his administration. This current session was no different, and when I had my meeting with Governor Fletcher we discussed, within the context of the current budget crisis, things that would be important to Anderson and Mercer County. I AGAIN repeated my concern with the budget, revenue, and the future of my district and of Kentucky. I reiterated that my main interest over the years has been the quality of the education of our children, with adequate support for our teachers and classified staff; my concern for other state employees who, because of the increased cost of health care have had to work two or three jobs to try and make ends meet; and finally, my desire to improve our Medicaid services that provide much needed assistance to a very vulnerable sector of Kentucky's population.
This discussion led me to say to Governor Fletcher, as I had many times before to Governor Patton and Democratic leadership that, "I would support a plan to modernize our tax structure." In my judgment, this is the ONLY way to create elasticity and future growth in the budget and to insure a more measurable, consistent revenue stream to move Kentucky forward.
As all are aware, there has been much rhetoric and posturing on both sides of the aisle during the session concerning the issue of tax reform. Because of the great importance I, as a legislator, place on the future of Kentucky and the 55th District, I have never considered this to be a partisan issue. I believe this is an issue that will require bi-partisan support from the House and Senate, not only to pass legislation, but to insure a successful implementation of the components of the governor's plan and the responsible monitoring for any future changes necessary to achieve its goals.