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Legislators must look for budget solutions

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From the House

By Rep. David Floyd

Our first coffee for this year is Saturday at the C & C Restaurant, just off Louisville Road across from Busy Bee.  We’ll be there at 10:00 and continue for an hour or so.  I’ll bring information on bills that have been filed, but we can talk about anything you’d like. These are great meetings, my chance for one-on-one with you. I’ve always encouraged you to call me at home or in Frankfort and I’m sincere about that.

These Saturday gatherings might be even better. The coffee is free, and I hope to see you there.

The 2010 session began yesterday.

The General Assembly convenes on the “first Tuesday after the first Monday” in January.

In even years we meet for no more than 60 legislative days. That doesn’t include weekends or holidays, and when you add in the “veto period” it means we won’t finish up until the middle of April.

This will be a tough budget session.

Decades of new and expanded programs were not always paid with regular income.

I’ve reported to you before on the use of bonding (borrowing) to fund bigger government programs in Kentucky.  We owe about seven billion dollars; paying down that debt requires more than 6 percent of our budget.

Now, those expanded programs do their job, providing support where there is a need.

But once you start helping people in a new way, they get used to it. If you ever have to cut or eliminate that assistance, you will do harm to them.

Unlike the federal government, we cannot print more money. (That wouldn’t solve our problem anyway; it just postpones things while making the real solution harder.)

What we’ve done is lower our spending while increasing our taxes - higher taxes on tobacco and alcohol.

We debated whether or not new taxes were wise, but our side lost. It wasn’t enough and we still have a problem - a very big problem.

Governor Beshear, to his credit, has been the one doing the spending cuts. It’s his responsibility and he’s stepped up to it by trimming state spending in about every area that fat was found. That’s good news.

The bad news is we will have to lower spending even more. And I’m just telling you now, it will not be pleasant.

Some say that we (lawmakers) need the courage to increase taxes.

I’d suggest that it will take more courage to lower spending enough to match our income. But as I see it, that’s our job.

There are several ways to keep track of things during this session.

The best way to get a message to me is our toll-free number, 800-372-7181. For the hearing impaired, there’s a TTY line for messages at 800-896-0305. You can learn of the schedule for committee meetings by calling 800-633-9650.

Committees typically meet Tuesday through Thursday, beginning at 8:00.

You don’t need a special pass to observe a committee meeting, and visitors are welcome.

You can also visit the House or Senate in session.

The first couple of weeks are slow on the floor since we don’t have any bills to consider until the committees pass them. 

But after that you’ll see some debate on bills and amendments. 

You can keep track of a bill by calling the toll-free Bill Status Line, 877-840-2835. But if you have internet access try the website www.lrc.ky.gov.

There you will find every bill that has been presented, and check on its status. You can email me from there, too.

And remember, the best part of my job is hearing from you.