On The Floor

Photo: KACo discusses legislative priorities with the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government. Left to right: KACo Executive Director/CEO Jim Henderson, KACo President-elect and Madison County Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor, KACo President and Boone County Judge/Executive Gary Moore, and KACo Director of Governmental Affairs Shellie Hampton

KACo presents 2020 legislative priorities

The Kentucky Association of Counties (KACo) presented testimony in the Capitol Annex Thursday regarding its top three priorities for the 2020 legislative session: road funding, jail relief and tax reform.

KACo President Gary Moore and president-elect Reagan Taylor testified in front of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government in Frankfort on these key issues heading into the 2020 session of the General Assembly. They were joined by the executive committee and a host of board members, all in support of the priorities.

Moore, who serves as Boone County judge/executive, and Taylor, judge/executive for Madison County, stressed that progress toward these three key pieces of KACo’s legislative platform will vastly improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians and help local governments continue to properly provide services and necessities for their residents.

One of the best ways for counties to get relief regarding transportation needs is raising the gas tax, Moore said. Almost every elected county official said in a recent survey they support an increase in the gas tax with 49 percent supporting an increase of 10 cents or more.

“Our top priority is transportation funding, and it’s one of yours as well,” Moore told legislative committee members. “The needs of the state are well documented. We have made great strides in our economic development efforts, and we know how vital good roads are to job creation. But the bottom line is, we all need more money for roads.”

Jails in Kentucky are facing unprecedented problems. More than half of those polled in a recent survey of elected county officials said that jail costs are putting the most strain on county budgets. Compounding the need for additional funding and more reform is that fact that there are 4,000 more inmates than there are jail beds statewide.

“This jail crisis across Kentucky is no secret,” Taylor said. “It’s something every county faces whether they operate their own jail or partner with neighboring counties to house their inmates. At the end of the day, each county is financially responsible for their own incarcerated population.”

Taylor encouraged the committee to consider an increase the state per diem rate; to pursue criminal justice reform, including pre-trial release; to broaden and fund substance abuse treatment; and to reimburse credit for time served.

Moore called tax reform “the other side of the equation” compared to the need for transportation and jail funding.

“We hear that our tax system at the state level is antiquated and makes us less competitive with the states around us,” Moore said. “Each time revenue options for local governments are explored, we are told to wait for comprehensive tax reform. If that happens, we ask for a seat at the table.

“Currently, when it comes to revenue options, our hands are tied,” Moore added. “We are just asking that you give us the right tools in our toolbox to build a better model to meet the needs of our communities.”

Rep. Russ Meyer was one of several committee members to ask questions and make comments regarding these issues.

“Serving in local government, I understand what cities and counties are going through and have gone through for the past 20 years,” Meyer said early in the meeting. “I hope that revenue options that come from League of Cities and KACo and all of our local governments do not fall on deaf ears as they have in years past.

“We don’t have a problem telling our local governments – cities and counties, school boards - that they have to pay more into the pension to solidify their portion of the pension, but then we don’t give them revenue options," Meyer added. "They have to own and take hold of to make decisions for the betterment of their communities. I hope we can move forward in a positive way for you on the revenue options.”

Moore agreed that county officials are ready to work with communities and with legislators to help improve daily life for all Kentuckians.

“It’s important for all of us as elected leaders to keep in mind that our duty is to serve our constituents,” Moore said. “We are all partners in the delivery of those services. If you live in a city, you live in a county. If you live in a county, you live in the Commonwealth.”

Read more about KACo's 2020 Legislative Priorities

Watch KACo's testimony from the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government

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