Representative Lynn Bechler in studio, April 12, 2018
Fourth District State Representative Lynn Bechler and retired Political Science teacher, Roy Gene Rogers, were in studio Thursday morning to talk to WPKY about some of the things happening in Frankfort.
Rep. Bechler first spoke about the budget bill, the one that’s currently been vetoed in it’s entirety by Governor Matt Bevin. He stated that according to Kentucky’s state constitution, the state must have a balanced budget by the end of the spring session and that he believes the chances are high that the legislature will vote to override the Governor’s veto. Rep. Bechler then explained the normal process for creating a state budget, stating that a working group gathers and goes through what the Governor proposes then discuss what they wish to include or remove. After the council agrees on a budget they bring it to the floor for a vote. After it passes one branch it goes up for a vote in the other. If it’s passed, it heads to the Governor’s desk.
Then, legislators begin to draft a revenue bill that will pay for the budget. This year, Rep. Bechler said, the revenue bill was a mixture of revenue and tax reform. House Bill 366 will keep Kentucky’s sales tax where it is but will make changes to the income tax. There are about five income tax brackets that go from 2 percent to 6 percent, the bill will change that to one flat rate of five percent. The bill also eliminated certain tax deductions and introduced sales tax on certain services that have never been subject to sales tax.
Rep. Bechler then attempted to clear up some misinformation about the budget. He stated that legislators did include funding to several programs Gov. Bevin originally proposed cutting. Some of those programs included county fair grants from the Department of Agriculture, the Kentucky Colon Cancer and Breast and Cervical Cancer screening programs, the Kentucky Autism Training Center, funding to area development districts, library funding, sheriff’s expense spending, funding for jails and jailers, the Whitehaven Welcome Center in Paducah, the Bluegrass State Games, and many more. However, legislators did leave out certain programs including some work study scholarships, some teacher scholarships, and some early childhood development scholarships. Rep. Bechler also stated that legislators did add $19 more per student to school districts and replaced funding for transportation, as well as fully funding health insurance for all educators.
Rep. Bechler then spoke about the current pension bill and all the misinformation surrounding it. The bill legislators sent to Gov. Bevin’s desk did not change any laws for current teachers but did put any new hires into a cash balance plan so that there was less chance of investors losing money. Gov. Bevin wanted to suspend COLA (cost-of-living-adjustments) for five years but legislators did not include that in their bill, they included no changes in COLA. Rep. Bechler then stated that the state is only responsible for twenty percent of the current underfunding of the pension system and that the remaining eighty percent falls on the way the pension system was set up. Originally it was set up to assume that salaries and new hires would continue to grow, but it has not done that, therefore the system has failed. Rep. Bechler also mentioned that legislators have not stolen pension funds and that all funds that were borrowed during the recent recession were repaid with interest. He also stated that Gov. Bevin and the legislation should be commended for taking this issue head on.
Rep. Bechler then spoke of a few other bills he’s been instrumental in passing during the recent session including House Bill 1, which deals with adoption reform, and House Bill 100, which deals with those in the heating and air profession. Rep. Bechler was also very instrumental in passing House Bill 84, which deals with changing state law to require coroners and medical examiners to contact the Kentucky Organ Donors Affiliate of organ donors when they pass away. The bill was created as a result of the death of Princeton native, Courtney Flear, who had indicated she wished to be an organ donor. Courtney’s final wishes were never fulfilled because the Kentucky Organ Donors Affiliate was never notified due to the wording in state law. House Bill 84 has been signed into law by Gov. Bevin.
You can catch the full interview with Rep. Lynn Bechler, where he speaks more in depth about state laws and procedures, below.