Higdon: Senate address state tax rate, looks at juvenile justice reform

14th District Senator

Friday, Jan. 6, 2023 — As we convene the 2023 regular session, I would like first to wish you a happy new year. I hope your holidays were filled with joy and laughter while spending quality time with family and friends.


To start, I want to acknowledge an historical moment in our state’s history. Thanks to the good work of a lot of people, especially my Senate colleagues from northern Kentucky, the federal government has awarded $1.6 billion in grant funding for completion of the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Covington to Cincinnati. While this isn’t a project directly impacting our 14th Senate District, it does have statewide and national economic impacts, as it opens easier traffic flow and commerce through the northern Kentucky corridor. As Senate transportation chair, I am honored to be a part of this historic endeavor and I want thank all of my friends in the legislature for supporting allocation of $250 million from the general fund into the state road plan that enabled us to qualify for the project’s federal funding.

This 2023 legislative session kicked off on a storm-filled Tuesday with heavy rains and high winds. I hope you remained safe in your travels if you were on the roadways during this time. The weather improved closer to the time the Senate gaveled in at noon and everyone’s day was brightened by the 100th Army Band of Fort Knox, which once again opened up the legislative session with its talented rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “My Old Kentucky Home.” This is always my favorite experience of the start of session.

Legislative sessions in odd-numbered years are known as ‘short sessions,’ consisting of 30 days, unlike the longer 60-day budget session, which occurs in even-numbered years. Short session years are intended to evaluate previously enacted policies and address any necessary legislative clean-up. As outlined in the Constitution of Kentucky, the General Assembly must gavel into session on the first Tuesday, following the first Monday in January, and adjourn after the first week for a constitutionally mandated break. We will reconvene on the first Tuesday in February and are required by the state constitution to adjourn by March 30.

The primary focus of week one in the Senate was to swear in our six new members, pass this year’s Senate rules, officially confirm committee assignments and introduce any critical legislation demanding immediate attention. Our newly elected members are Amanda Mays Bledsoe, R-Lexington, Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro, Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria, Lindsey Tichenor, R-LaGrange, Matt Deneen, R-Elizabethtown, and Gex Williams, R-Verona. They, along with each of us, took their oaths of office on Tuesday.

On Jan. 1, the first automatic reduction of our state income tax went into effect. The 2022 House Bill 8 outlined the framework by which the first half-percent was reduced automatically once specific economic triggers were reached, taking the commonwealth from a 5 percent to a 4.5 percent state income tax. The reduction for the second 0.5 percent must be introduced like any other bill and be voted on by the General Assembly.

To continue down this path towards further income tax reduction, our House of Representatives introduced House Bill 1, which sets the rate for another 0.5 percent income tax reduction to 4 percent. It was voted out of the state House and moves over to the Senate for consideration. The bill is now in our care, and we will take prompt action on it when we return on Feb. 7.

House Bill 1 is significant in that this additional 0.5 percent reduction will leave anywhere from $600 million to $650 million in the pockets of Kentucky taxpayers and consumers. This is the next responsible step in reducing Kentuckians’ income tax to 0 percent which moves tax policy away from penalizing production and work to one based on consumption, leaving power in consumers’ pockets. When looking at states such as Florida, Tennessee, and Texas, you will find the economic successes of similar conservative tax policies at work. These states each experienced strong population growth according to 2020 Census data and are enjoying robust economies. This is what happens when residents have more money in their pockets to spend as they see fit.

The senate approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 31 this week. The measure aims to establish a time-limited working group to collect data and address the recent troubling details we have recently heard, relating to the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice. It is our hope to bring stakeholders together during the constitutionally mandated break in the 30-day session so we can collectively determine a better path forward to remedy this crisis.

If you have any questions or comments about these or any other public policy issues, please call my office toll-free at 502-564-8100 or the legislative message line 1-800-372-7181. You can reach me at (270) 692-6945 (home) or email Jimmy.Higdon@LRC.ky.gov

I welcome students in the 14th District to contact my office if you are interested in serving as a Senate page during the session. Find details on the page program at the LRC website mentioned above. Stay safe. God Bless.


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