Kentucky lawmakers override Bevin vetoes, restore tax and budget bills
The Kentucky House of Representatives voted Friday to override Gov. Matt Bevin’s veto of a tax bill that raises $480 million in revenue by expanding the reach of the state sales tax and other measures.
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – The Republican-controlled state legislature bucked Gov. Matt Bevin on Friday, voting to override the governor's vetoes of the state budget and a tax bill that would raise $480 million in revenue by expanding the reach of the state sales tax and other measures.
Lawmakers chose to keep their spending and tax plans intact over the objection of a governor of their own party.
"We are here to make tough decisions," Senate President Robert Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said before casting his vote to override Bevin on the tax measure.
In the House, the budget override passed 66-28, while the less popular bill raising taxes passed 57-40. The Senate overrode Bevin's veto of the tax bill by 20-18 and by 26-12 on the budget bill.
Republicans said overriding Bevin was the only way to leave Frankfort with a budget that doesn’t drastically cut K-12 education.
"We have to have this revenue to fund our schools … you are either for public education funding or you’re not," said state Rep. Regina Huff, a Republican from Williamsburg.
But Democrats scoffed at those charges, saying they didn't support the charter schools legislation Republicans passed last year and that the tax bill raises revenue on the backs of the poor while giving cuts to the rich and corporations.
Critics also have attacked a process that saw Republicans introduce and pass the sweeping tax overhaul -- called "tax reform" by supporters and a "tax shift" by opponents -- in a single day earlier this month. Bevin took to Twitter while the House was considering the tax measure, calling it a "sloppy, non-transparent bill."
"The tax reform in the bill represents government by surprise, government by secret, government by exclusion and government by the powerful at the expense of the less wealthy," said Rep. Angie Hutton, a Democrat from Whitesburg.
Former House Speaker Jeff Hoover returned to the chamber for the first time in weeks after settling an ethics case over his alleged sexual harassment of a female employee.
Hoover, a Republican, criticized remarks Bevin made at a press conference earlier in the week in which the governor said lawmakers don't understand fiscal policy.
Hoover also said Bevin cannot be taken at his word because the governor failed to call a special session in 2017 over pension and tax issues, which Bevin said he would do.
Bevin shot back on Twitter, saying, "The only reason we did not have a special session last year is because Jeff Hoover, a married man, was sexually involved with a very young, single member of his staff and was paying hush money to hide his actions."
The only reason we did not have a special session last year is because Jeff Hoover, a married man, was sexually involved with a very young, single member of his staff and was paying hush money to hide his actions...The result was chaos in the KY House that stopped everything— Governor Matt Bevin (@GovMattBevin) April 13, 2018
Sen. Morgan McGarvey, a Democrat from Louisville, warned that lawmakers could be giving Bevin license to cut millions of dollars from the budget without their input -- or even to call the legislature back for a special session.
That's because Bevin's budget director John Chilton said Friday that that the tax increases won't raise the full $480 million that the legislature projects, so the budget is not balanced as constitutionally required. Chilton estimated that revenues could come up as much as $87 million short.
Such a scenario would require a budget-balancing order by Bevin.
But after both chamber passed the overrides, Senate President Stivers said he believes that an independent analysis of the revenue projections are accurate.
Asked how the Republican governor might view the rebuke by the GOP-led legislature, Stivers said: “We’ve voted to override bills in the past," he said. "It was very clear from our positions in both chambers we wanted to protect our ability to do overrides. I think he knew where we were.”
The legislature has yet to act on several unintended consequences of the swiftly-passed tax bill, including jeopardizing tax incentive programs used by Toyota, Ford and General Electric.
House Bill 366, the tax measure, would repeal the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act, a program that aids manufacturers that employ at least 1,000 in the state with plant upgrades and other work.
“By overriding the Governor's veto of HB 366, the General Assembly directly endangers the jobs of thousands of Kentucky workers and potentially halts the creation of future jobs by these large-scale and highly valued employers,” Terry Gill, secretary of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, said in a letter to House and Senate members on Thursday.
Stivers said lawmakers plan to restore that program in a bill on Saturday, the final day of the 60-day session.
“We have heard from the economic development cabinet to make sure they have all the tools in the toolbox," he said. "We’re going to deal with those.”
And while Bevin could veto any new bill, Stivers noted that "these are suggestions that are coming from his people.”
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