In an interview with The Bottom Line on Thursday, Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville said the House is very close to having the votes to pass a pension reform bill to deal with regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies and added he feels a special session will be called soon after the primary election next week.
Nemes said he believes the bill presented to the legislature by the governor is a good bill, referring to it as “the best of a bunch of bad options” as the situation with regional universities and quasi-governmental agencies not being able to make their pension payments and something must be done to ease some of that pension burden before July 1.
As for when it will be dealt with, Nemes said he expects the governor to call lawmakers back to Frankfort soon after the primary election on May 21, likely the following week.
During the 2019 session, Nemes was a primary co-sponsor of legislation to legalize medical marijuana. When the pension issue is discussed, many Kentuckians feel if the state legalized marijuana, it would help with the financial issues presented by the pension crisis.
Nemes’ bill, however, would have only legalized marijuana for medical purposes and would not tax it as he stated revenue should not be raised on the backs of sick people. Therefore, he said there is no correlation between the issue of pensions and legalization of medical marijuana in his bill.
As for how likely a medical marijuana bill is to pass, Nemes stated the votes are there to pass medical marijuana legislation in both the House and the Senate and he hopes to see passage next year on the issue.
Another topic which comes up alongside the pension crisis and the need for more money is tax reform. While some reforms have been made to the tax code, Nemes said there is still more work to be done in making Kentucky’s tax system more consumption-based by lowering the individual income tax and other items.
Some discussion has been had around the idea of increasing the state’s sales tax by at least a penny to generate more revenue. In a discussion with The Bottom Line last week, Rep. John Sims stated he plans to file legislation to raise the sales tax by two cents and have that money go into the General Fund and not allocated to pensions alone as some have suggested.
Nemes said while he has not discussed an increase in the sales tax with his constituents, more action must be taken to improve Kentucky’s tax code.
Another tax issue in the forefront of policy deliberations in Kentucky is an increase in the gas tax as part of a larger plan to solve Kentucky’s infrastructure woes. Nemes noted the decrease in federal funding for roads and bridges and stated something must be done at the state level to help maintain roads and bridges as well as remain competitive with surrounding states.
Watch the full interview segment with Rep. Jason Nemes in the video below:
Check back on The Bottom Line next week to hear more from Rep. Nemes on criminal justice reform, biggest issues coming up in 2020, and more.