96th district Legislative Report...
Rep. Jill York, 96th District
January 31, 2014
Legislators fear additional costs to be passed to local districtsI’m an avid window shopper and love to investigate all the features of something I’m thinking about buying. Usually, I can think of a whole lot of ways the gizmo or item would be useful and will just about have myself convinced I need it -- and then I’ll check out the price tag. Should the value make sense, I’m headed to the cash register and if the sticker shock is too high, the item goes back on the shelf.Very few folks would say “Yes!” to making a purchase without first investigating how much it will cost. That explanation goes to the point of a debate that took place over House Bill 154 this past week. The bill was stated to be about transparency – making sure ample oversight was directed at financial reporting by school districts – but a last minute switch in committee added a new component to the bill.That new language wanted to add more training for local officials. The people who wanted the new training part added to the bill failed to have our analysts look into the costs of the training and what it would mean to our local districts. Those districts are already working on the thinnest of budgets and carefully counting each and every penny in their aim to provide a quality education to our students. Absolutely, we can all agree that being able to look at the spending of government entities is good. In that same regard, no one disputed the fact that additional training for school board officials would have many good outcomes. What wasn’t clear was why there was no fiscal impact statement prepared on something that was bound to add costs at the local level. In fact, I rose to make remarks asking the members of the House to “… hit the pause button,” and delay the vote until such time as we could put some numbers together and determine what the costs, if any, were projected.Another member described the training addition as a possible “unfunded mandate” to be passed along by the General Assembly and questioned why the changes appeared only minutes before the scheduled vote in committee.For close to an hour, members asked questions of the bills sponsor and debated back and forth. Procedural votes were taken to try and request a financial assessment before the final vote and, at times, the arguments got testy.As it finally ended, the majority members in the House decided to leap without looking and voted in favor of HB 154 without knowing whether the bill will place an additional financial burden on school administrators and teachers.The bill had a tough passage and will now be taken up in the Senate where I hope they request a fiscal study to make sure there are no surprise costs for our school districts down the road.Sometimes, government can find ways to duplicate services. Imagine two or more offices managing the same stuff. How confusing! How expensive! Which office should you listen to? Does that mean you must work with all of them to get your answer or help? Legislation was filed this week that would eliminate the need for Governor’s Office for Agricultural Policy. This move would save more than $3.6 million in personnel costs and $720,000 in operation costs over the next two years while bringing efficiency to our farmers and agriculture businesses by placing these duties within the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. It makes a lot of sense to let the farm experts be in charge of those services.Another bill filed for consideration that I’m a co-sponsor of with Rep. Brian is House Bill 243, which would increase a tax credit teachers receive for out of pocket purchases for their classrooms from $250 to $500 annually. In researching this bill, it was discovered that many teachers were spending far above the maximum $250 tax credit for classroom supplies. You can see that much of my activity goes toward keeping an eye on costs, looking for ways to cut away waste, and trying to relieve some of the burdens of government from our citizens. Government is here to serve the citizens – not the other way around.Speaking of service, I hope you will contact me and weigh in on the issues that affect you. You may reach me through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or contact me via e-mail at email@example.com. You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.Also, we are near the end of the opportunity to respond to my online issue survey at this link: www.surveytool.com/s/issues2014. Results will be released at the first of February – so please participate and get your thoughts counted!
By Glenn Mollette Every American needs to save more money. Millions of Americans are struggling in retirement part-time jobs to keep food on the table. Fast food restaurants are filled with American seniors working for minimum wage in order to survive. Every dollar put toward retirement will eventually be needed for shelter, food and medical expenses. Each year millions of people live longer than the money they had saved for retirement lasts. President Obama has an idea with a new government backed IRA account called MyRA that will encourage all Americans to contribute up to 15,000 a year. The contributions would not be tax deductible but like a Roth IRA the interest would be tax-free. Contributions can be as low as $25 to start and people earning up to $191,000 a year may contribute through their employers. Savings can last as long as thirty years before being transferred to a private Roth IRA. Earnings on the savings will be the same as the federal employees Thrift Savings Plan - Government Securities Investment Fund. This fund earned 1.74% last year. I'm glad for any safe and inexpensive way for Americans to save money. Some things make me nervous.
- Our government handles our Social Security. Aging Americans are now waiting longer and longer to collect earned benefits. The funds really do not even exist. Every month our government robs Peter to pay Paul in order to keep the Social Security checks coming. Our government has mismanaged Social Security. Do we feel secure about this government run supplemental retirement plan?- Our government is handling our medical coverage through Medicare, Medicaid and now the Affordable Care Act. Each year the government will need more and more of your money through taxes to keep all of this solvent. We are in a crisis already.- Our infrastructure is hurting. Funds for American interstates, bridges, our national parks, research to find cures for cancer and other diseases is lean.- Will this new savings plan and other ideas eventually eliminate the current military retirement plan? Is this a slick new way to eventually cut out the Federal retirement plan? Could this idea and other ideas eliminate our current Social Security? We need to at least beware. Our government is struggling to keep Federal, military and Social security checks moving. I agree that all Americans need safe and accessible ways to save money. However, don't be blindsided by easy new programs that could eliminate what millions of Americans have already spent twenty to thirty years working toward. Glenn Mollette is an American columnist read in all fifty states. Contact him at GMollette@aol.com. Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette. He is the author of American Issues and numerous other books.
TUESDAY, JANUARY 28, 2014
'Promise Zone' in E. Ky. Coal Field faces challenges
During the State of the Union speech, President Obama plans to explain his plan to battle inequality and poverty including the "promise zone" plan, which is a new version of an old idea: the "enterprise zone," writes Annie Lowrey of The New York Times. Recently Obama named a large part of southeastern Kentucky a promise zone, which means it will attract "renewed attention from Washington, which vowed to provide it top priority for grants and, if Congress goes along, new tax dollars as well," Lowery notes, adding that "this remote part of Appalachia" suffers from an unemployment rate of 12.8 percent, rampant drug abuse and a 26 percent rate of poverty.The zone is one of five named so far; the other rural one is the Choctaw Nation in eastern Oklahoma. The Kentucky plan continues to gain advocates "from across the political spectrum," Lowrey reports. For example, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and Sen. Rand Paul, a Democrat and a Republican, support the the program. "This adds up to significant stimulus," Paul told Lowrey. "It could have a big effect for people who are really hurting."Lowery writes, "But experts are broadly skeptical that any federal initiative would be enough to combat either the immediate economic upheaval caused by the loss of coal jobs or the long-term economic torpor that is a product of remoteness, poor infrastructure and an under-educated work force." Bob Turner, a Skidmore College professor who has studied enterprise zones, said, "There's a real gap between the amount of private and public disinvestment in these areas and the scope of the public intervention."Local workers and officials are unsure how significantly the government will be able to improve the area's economy. "There isn't a magic bullet here," said Jeff Whitehead, the executive director of the Eastern Kentucky Concentrated Employment Program. "My agency is involved with trying to retrain 8,000 coal miners who have lost their jobs. Unfortunately, one of the more successful things we're doing is helping them find jobs outside the area."The government had helped enterprise zones by providing better tax rates and anti-crime programs in an attempt to attract businesses to the area while also seeking to improve education programs and build the work force. Past enterprise zones have had mixed results. In 1994 two and a half counties on the edge of the East Kentucky Coal Field became an empowerment zone, but the resulting improvements in employment and poverty may have simply resulted from improvements in the broader economy, Lowery writes. She notes that the region is still dependent upon federal programs, and the declining coal industry to the east has brought on a rise in crime and poverty.Supporters of the promise zones remain optimistic that the program could be more effective this time. In Kentucky, the initiative involves worker retraining, business investment and anti-drug policies. "The idea is to build a diversified economy based on the talents of the local people as they are now," said Alison Davis, director of the Community and Economic Development Initiative of Kentucky at the University of Kentucky. She emphasized the importance of not only attracting large businesses but also assisting workers to start new businesses: "In the past, it's been a lot of 'Shoot anything that flies! But in Appalachia, particularly in these counties—it would be a special, unique company that would find its needs met in Eastern Kentucky." (Read more)Also, the effort will have some corollary help, which the Times story fails to note. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has added it and several other counties to its StrikeForce list for preferential treatment, and Beshear and 5th District U.S. Rep. Harold "Hal" Rogers, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, have mounted a joint effort to boost the economy in the state's Appalachian counties, including $100 million for highspeed Internet. Also, the promise zone will be managed by Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp., a venture-capital agency that handled the empowerment zone.
Written by Melissa Landon Posted at 1/28/2014 12:57:00 PM
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