FRANKFORT– Greetings from the Kentucky General Assembly! I hope this update finds you well. On Tuesday, lawmakers returned from a break and dove straight into Part II of the short, 30-day session. We are now in the midst of deliberating on issues that will have wide-ranging, lasting effects on the commonwealth into the future.
It has been a busy and productive time at the Capitol since we reconvened this week. Now, meetings are taking place with constituents and stakeholders, we are regularly attending committee meetings, and a flurry of legislative activity is expected over the coming weeks. Despite the hectic pace, I am proud to say that I have been hard at work representing the interests of our district and advocating for the issues that matter most to our community.
Immediately following our return, the first bill undertaken by the Senate dealt with restructuring Kentucky’s tax policy. House Bill 1 (HB 1) calls for income taxes to be reduced from 4.5% to 4 % at the start of 2024. The measure is part of a broader, ongoing effort to gradually eliminate income taxes while attempting to expand the overall tax base.
Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation that set the stage to revamp tax policy in the commonwealth over several years. That measure established “triggers” that will lower the state income tax rate by either a half or full percent once state revenues reach certain levels. Revenues met the first trigger in 2022, which reduced the state income tax from 5% to 4.5% on January 1 of this year.
A major tax policy change such as this should not be a matter of political ideology. Instead, overhauls of this magnitude should be examined based on the principles of equity and economic sustainability. While taxes are often utilized as a vessel to generate revenue for services people rely on, changes to the policy can have various impacts on different groups in society. Understanding the effects of the various tax policies is crucial to understanding and making informed decisions that benefit the greatest number of Kentuckians.
Tax policy is a serious matter, and an area I have always been focused on during my time in the legislature. I voted against the measure because it primarily benefits the wealthiest individuals in our state. As Kentucky has shifted to more consumption-based taxes, placing new taxes on services such as childcare, vehicle and carsharing rentals, personal fitness, parking, and many other services, we are ultimately hurting low-income people with this legislation. It passed the Senate by a vote of 30-5 and now goes to the Governor for further consideration.
In a meeting of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy, lawmakers heard updates on the implementation of Senate Bill (SB) 217, which passed during the 2022 session. As the primary sponsor, I filed the measure to establish the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife as an independent agency by removing the oversight of the Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Board as the final decision maker.
The intention of the legislation is to maximize department efficacy by eliminating bureaucratic pressure and granting the department the ability to facilitate the hiring of agency personnel. I continue to closely monitor the situation, as the Department of Fish and Wildlife must have more autonomy over its agency.
Other bills passed in the Senate this week:
HB 2 makes an appropriation to complete the construction of the Bowling Green Veterans Center, which will serve 24 counties in south-central Kentucky. Anytime we can support the men and women who served our country, we should do so. The measure passed the Senate with unanimous consent.
SB 20 aims to ban the use of the social media app TikTok on state government technology, including government-owned Wi-Fi networks and devices. The ban is motivated by concerns over potential security risks posed by the Chinese ownership of the app and seeks to mitigate this risk of sensitive government information potentially being obtained by the Chinese government. This legislation reflects the growing concern over the security of digital data and the increasing scrutiny of Chinese-owned technology companies operating in the United States. It passed the Senate by a vote of 33-0 and now goes to the House for further consideration.
As we move forward, it is clear the pace and workload will only continue to pick up. With only 22 legislative days remaining until we adjourn on March 30, there is a great deal of work to complete. I am committed to working tirelessly on behalf of our community, and I am eager to share with you the latest updates and highlights from the Capitol.
For more information on the 2023 session, visit www.legislature.ky.gov, where you can see the weekly schedule, watch live and archived coverage of committee meetings, search legislator contact information, learn about the legislative process, view informational materials, and request to testify at committee meetings.If I can ever be of assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me. To share feedback on an issue, feel free to email me anytime at Robin.Webb@LRC.KY.GOV or call the General Assembly Message Line at 1-800-372-7181. Kentuckians with hearing loss can use Kentucky Relay by dialing 711.