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Court rules on Beshear’s emergency powers while legislature prepares for 2021

By CHAD MCCOY
50th District State Representative

Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 — Like many across the state, I am reviewing the opinion issued by the Kentucky Supreme Court regarding a governor’s authority in a state of emergency. The court ruled unanimously in favor of the Governor and against the opinion of other courts. I have many concerns, particularly because nothing seems to address major inconsistencies and startling infringements on constitutional rights. We all agree that any executive branch needs the proper authority to act during a time like this; however, do emergency powers created to address short-term problems really properly apply to a pandemic expected to last months if not years? What exists to ensure that actions taken under a state of emergency follow the appropriate process and provide sensible guidance? Who safeguards the constitution and ensures an appropriate use of power?

REP. CHAD MCCOY

The Court’s opinion proves the need to better define emergency powers that were granted by previous legislatures, and we are certainly looking at what can be done when we convene in January. Until then, I hope the Governor will recognize the need to work with the legislature and accept our help.

Of course, last week also provided an opportunity to prepare for the 2021 Session when we will face our toughest challenge to date: crafting a budget without knowing how our economy will look. Since being given the majority in 2016, our budgets reflect our commitment to invest tax dollars responsibly. We are not spending money to win votes or curry political favor; we are investing in programs and projects that make a real difference. The same thinking applies to changing how we tax. Our tax reforms have been aimed at building a strong economy so that more people can pay less in taxes while still investing in state programs that improve the quality of life for all Kentuckians. We want the people of Kentucky to work less for our government and bring home more for themselves.

Without a doubt, our top priority in the 2021 Session will be crafting a responsible one-year budget – a difficult task in a good year but far more difficult when we do not know how much money we will have to invest. It is also likely that we will have to reopen the current year’s budget to prioritize spending. Because of the pandemic’s forecasted impact on our revenue, we adjusted and passed a one-year budget for the 2020 fiscal year that kept funding flat for state agencies and programs. We also went back and made cuts to the fiscal year we were in and required that any extra money be placed in Kentucky’s “rainy day” savings account rather than be spent by the administration.

In early November, the Governor stated that the money the state collects in taxes and fees this year will be enough to fund the state’s current fiscal-year budget without further cuts. I think it is a bit early to say this and maybe even a little bit irresponsible, especially given that the fiscal year ends in June, and we face many uncertainties between now and then. However, I am glad to hear him focus on the budget.

REVENUE FORECAST. Last week, the Interim Joint Committee on Appropriations and Revenue heard a report from the Governor’s budget director on the unofficial revenue forecast for 2021. He told members to expect a General Fund shortfall of $99 million and a Road Fund overage of $9 million. In October, the General Fund rose 3 percent compared with last October. Sales tax receipts grew 6.3 percent last month and were up 5.1 percent for the first four months of the fiscal year. We expect the Governor to bring his budget requests to us in the first week of January, and we will continue to monitor all of this as we prepare to craft our spending plan.

BRENT SPENCE BRIDGE. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet gave the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation an update on the recent truck collision and fire on the Brent Spence Bridge in northern Kentucky. Officials say a truck hauling potassium hydroxide crashed into a jackknifed truck on November 11. Thankfully, no injuries were reported from the incident, but the damage was severe, and it looks like this major connector between our state and the Midwest will be closed for at least a month and up to three months.

As your representative here in Frankfort, I am always available to discuss your concerns, policies, or issues facing our community. I can be reached through the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181, and you can contact me via e-mail at Chad.McCoy@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky legislature’s website at legislature.ky.gov.

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