A recent newspaper article in Lexington was quick to point out the feel good math. The tax credit that Rep. Wayne proposes would help 350,000 low income families. But it will be paid for by taxing estates worth more than $3.5 million dollars with family farms exempted. The article points out that this expansion of the estate tax will affect only about 350 Kentucky families per year.
Eerie how they were able to figure out that this plan could be paid for by imposing a tax increase on exactly one-one thousandth of the number of people who the proposed tax cut would ultimately benefit. The government can simply take $45 million dollars away from only 350 very wealthy people when they die and use it to give a tax break to 350,000 very poor people.
Who wouldn't be for that?
Taking what isn't yours is wrong
I wouldn't. There is, of course, the obvious question of the difference between a "family farm" worth $3.5 million dollars and any other estate worth $3.5 million dollars? But that is just a simple sidetrack so as not to offend our farmers. No matter how well intentioned the government's motives are here, taking what doesn't belong to you is still wrong, whether it is from a successful farmer or from a successful real estate tycoon. And in this case, that is exactly what the government is planning to do. After all, when is the last time only 350 people actually swung an election? This should be a safe political game to play, but it's still wrong to the very core of American values.
I've always had a fundamental problem with estate taxes. The government has always had a fundamental lust for them. It's money that's already been taxed, and it is about to change hands. That is the logic that Uncle Sam uses to claim an obscenely large portion for his own bad spending habits.
Perhaps the saddest part of this is that it is continuing evidence of what I see as an outright refusal by our elected officials to do the job we hired them to do. To say that they can't seriously take a hard look at government waste and spending and find a measly $45 million dollars in a $9 billion dollar budget to give low and middle income Kentuckians a tax break is truly a sad state of affairs. While this feel-good story is one of the few Jim Wayne initiatives that I've seen make its way into the mainstream press, let's examine some of the other neat ideas he's come up with in the last few years.
Also this year, he has proposed House Bill 262, which would increase the income tax rate on all families making more than $75,000 per year. He proposed the exact same bill last year as HB 411 and the year before that as HB 506, but it didn't pass. So at least we know he is persistent. And in 2006, he also proposed adding an additional tax on mortgages, as well as raising the inspection fee on cars brought in from out of state. Let's face it; his record is not exactly taxpayer friendly.
Sounds like Robin Hood and his merry band of thieves are at it again. We should always be wary when our legislators start talking about "revenue neutral." Ernie Fletcher did it in his administration and it led to the now infamous "Alternative Minimum Tax," which has shut down and run off many small businesses in Kentucky and continues to make it tough on others. Tax modernization was just another way of creating more tax confusion.
We need real economic overhaul in Kentucky. And we need to wean ourselves from constantly growing government spending. I support the idea of a tax credit for all Kentuckians. But we need to tell our legislators to go back to the drawing board and come back with something that makes sense. Like more efficient government.
Leland Conway is executive editor of www.conservativeedge.com and host of "The Pulse of Lexington" on 630WLAP. E-mail him at Leland@wlap.com.