In a sit-down interview with The Bottom Line, Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said the legislature will see a slower, more deliberate pace in the 2019 session and will focus on key priorities including tax reform fixes, school safety, and others.
“Quite frankly, we do need to slow down. There’s not that singular pressing issue out there that we have built consensus around for a period of years like we’ve done in the past with right to work and prevailing wage and workers’ compensation reform. We had spent years building consensus on those types of items,” Osborne said.
As for what the legislature will focus on in the 2019 session, Osborne highlighted the issues of school safety, welfare reform, and fixes to the tax reform package passed in 2018 as issues he feels will be priorities in the House and Senate.
“The one thing we absolutely have to do this year, and we will do that shortly after we come back, is make some tweaks to the tax reform bill. We have been talking back and forth with both Senate and House members the things that we can all agree on that were truly unintended consequences or misinterpretations by the Revenue Cabinet,” Osborne said. “At the end of the day, I am proud of that bill we passed. I think it was a good piece of legislation that started us on the path of modernizing a really, really oppressive and bad tax system. And we started that. And I think often times the first step is the most difficult one.”
On the issue of welfare reform, Osborne said his caucus would like to see the barriers for people entering the workforce taken down and a system that doesn’t penalize people for going to work.
“Let’s take away that fear of reward. And there are many rewards beyond financial to reentering the workplace, but let’s take those financial concerns away from people reentering the workforce and give them the ability to find that, not only that job that creates monetary gain, but also the great personal benefits of being able to be back in the workplace,” Osborne said.
When asked about the possibility of the legislature tackling the increased need for infrastructure investment, Osborne said the formula for how Kentucky funds its roads and infrastructure is broken and the costs will continue to go up under this model.
“We will move some type of infrastructure funding at such time that we have that type of bipartisan buy-in. This is not something that I feel like that Republicans aren’t the only ones that drive on these roads. It’s Republicans and Democrats. And when both parties come together with a solution, then I think it will be time to move something,” Osborne said, adding that bipartisan discussions are being had to come up with a solution.
Meanwhile, the 2019 governor’s race is beginning to see crowded primaries for both parties as the filing deadline for that race approaches. Osborne said he doesn’t expect the race to have a huge impact on the 2019 session outside of a few longer floor speeches as two members of the General Assembly are running for governor. The House Speaker did say he believes it is important to enter public service for the right reasons and stay focused.
“Once you have a better understanding of people, it does give you; it doesn’t mean you’re agreeing with their policies, of course we should have major disagreements on policy; but we also need to understand that those people are representing the people that elected them. And I think that makes us better as a body, and conversely, I think that makes us better as a state when we’re able to come together like that,” Osborne said.
Watch part two of the exclusive interview with House Speaker David Osborne here:
You can view part one of the interview where Osborne discusses what comes next with the state’s pension crisis and what happened in the first week of the 2019 session on The Bottom Line here.
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