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MATTER OF OPINION: Merry “tax”mas

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By Robin Bass

Money seems to be all anyone can talk about these days – and not in a good way. Scary words, like layoffs and furloughs, are being used in everyday conversations around coffee pots throughout the nation.

Even right here in our community, County Attorney Ruth Hollan is trying to figure out how to do her job of protecting the good guys and locking up the bad guys while the state proposes cut, after cut, after cut.

There are other state-funded offices located in Spencer County that will soon also feel the pinch of belt tightening, but for now their employees remain in a state of anxiousness – not knowing how much or when. Offices like Kentucky’s Transportation Department, Property Valuation Administration (PVA), Vocational Rehabilitation, and Kentucky Fish and Wildlife will all experience cuts in their budgets if the General Assembly approves the governor’s across–the–board four percent cut.

Spencer County Schools are looking at losing two percent of their flexible funding – a line item on the budget that goes toward helping struggling students and training teachers.

Before long, county offices will feel the weight of this $456 million shortfall, as well. Added to the funds that have already been cut, Kentucky’s 120 counties will undoubtedly receive word that money they depend on will need to be reduced again. In Spencer County that means less money to pave county roads, pay jail bills and help clean up litter.

“It’s all just a big vicious circle,” said Spencer County Judge Executive David Jenkins. He explained that while the state may not have the means to directly cut a county office, there certainly are funds from fees, licenses and grants that the county relies on to do their jobs.

So where does it all end? With more taxes? You and I both know that a 70-cent per pack cigarette tax is not the answer. I do not have a problem with increasing cigarette taxes because I consider it a luxury item, but once that pill is digested the next proposal will likely be a one-cent increase in sales tax. All that taxes accomplish is to make people want to spend less, and isn’t the fact that we are all spending less part of the problem?

The other part of the problem is government spending. Forking over billions of dollars to banks, car manufacturers and whoever else finds themselves in the red this year is just bad management.

I find it ironic that just a few days after Governor Beshear announced his proposed cuts that there were several announcements of the state awarding grants. There was a transportation enhancement grant for Georgetown (much like what we received to renovate Main Street) and, last Thursday, the state gave grant money to Madisonville for improvements to their sewer system.

“Even though our state is in a time of financial crisis, we cannot abandon our obligation to improve the lives of our citizens,” said Beshear. “Clean drinking water and effective sanitary sewage systems are basic necessities, not luxuries, to which every Kentucky family is entitled.”

How about improving the lives of Kentucky citizens by not taxing them into the poor house? Maybe if the government stopped playing Santa Claus with our tax money then we wouldn’t be in a situation where we would have to lay people off or give them unpaid vacations.