Editorial: Compromise!

April 11, 2004

What we have in Frankfort these days is a failure to compromise.

State legislators have just two days left in the 2004 session of the General Assembly to act on the big issues on their plates - the state budget, tax reform and gay marriage.

Failing to do something about these issues is not going to sit well with Kentucky voters. Whatever their party, incumbent legislators on the ballot in November are going to be vulnerable if they don't get the job done this week. So it's not only in the interest of the people of Kentucky but also the interest of the legislators themselves that seek a compromise on the biggest issues they face.

Here are some suggestions:

Gay marriage - The Republican Senate passed a proposed constitional amendment that - if approved by the voters - would ban both marriages and civil unions between gay couples. The Democratic House passed a proposal banning gay marriage but not civil unions. The House added language concerning judicial authority over the state legislature - language that gay-marriage foes argued was intended to get the whole amendment thrown out in court.


Compromise solution: Present two constitutional amendments to the voters in November - one to ban gay marriage, a second to ban civil unions. Splitting the gay marriage and civil unions issues into two amendments is a logical way to solve the impasse because in the minds of many Kentuckians they are really two different issues. Legislators weren't sent to Frankfort just by the extremists on both sides who turn out to protest in front of the state Capitol. They are there to represent all of the people, and they should give the people of Kentucky the opportunity to vote on these issues separately.

Tax reform and the budget - Gov. Ernie Fletcher's much-needed tax reform package is technically "revenue neutral." It raises taxes on tobacco products and some other goods and services and cuts taxes in other areas. By stimulating job growth in the state, it is intended to produce more tax revenue in the long run.

But to get tax reform and the budget passed, Republican leaders need to give a little. They need to increase the tax on tobacco products even more, thus allowing the Democrats to restore some of the cuts made in education and other state services.

We know that the governor and a number of Republican legislators have signed no-tax-increase pledges, but we seriously doubt that any elected official is going to be voted out of office for increasing tobacco taxes.

Besides, the Fletcher administration is just beginning. The governor has four years to make state government more efficient by cutting the waste that everyone knows exists in any large bureaucracy. If he succeeds, nobody is going to hold an increase in the tobacco tax against him.

What would hurt Republicans more in November and in subsequent elections is the impression that nothing is getting done in Frankfort. Republicans have to remember that they're basically in charge now, and when things go wrong, they're going to get the blame.

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