January 6, 2023
SENATOR PHILLIP WHEELER LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
As we convene the 2023 regular session, I would like first to wish you a happy new year. I hope your holidays were filled with joy and laughter while spending quality time with family and friends.
This 2023 legislative session kicked off on a storm-filled Tuesday with heavy rains and high winds. I hope you remained safe in your travels if you were on the roadways during this “
Legislative sessions in odd-numbered years are known as ‘short sessions,’ consisting of 30 days, unlike the longer 60-day budget session, which occurs in even-numbered years. Short session years are intended to evaluate previously enacted policies and address any necessary legislative clean-up. As outlined in the Constitution of Kentucky, the General Assembly must gavel into session on the first Tuesday, following the first Monday in January, and adjourn after the first week for a constitutionally mandated break. We will reconvene on the first Tuesday in February and are required by the state constitution to adjourn by March 30.
The primary focus of week one in the Senate was to swear in our six new members, pass this year’s Senate rules, officially confirm committee assignments, and introduce any critical legislation demanding immediate attention. Our newly elected members are Amanda Mays Bledsoe, R-Lexington, Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro, Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria, Lindsey Tichenor, R-LaGrange, Matt Deneen, R-Elizabethtown, and Gex Williams, R-Verona. They, along with each of us, took their oaths of office on Tuesday.
On Jan. 1, the first automatic reduction of our state income tax went into effect. The 2022 House Bill 8 outlined the framework by which the first half-percent was reduced automatically once specific economic triggers were reached, taking the commonwealth from a 5 percent to a 4.5 percent state income tax. The reduction for the second 0.5 percent must be introduced like any other bill and be voted on by the General Assembly.
To continue down this path towards further income tax reduction, our House of Representatives introduced House Bill 1, which sets the rate for another 0.5 percent income tax reduction to 4 percent. It was voted out of the state House and moves over to the Senate for consideration. The bill is now in our care, and we will take prompt action on it when we return on Feb. 7.
In the 2022 Regular Session of the General Assembly, the Republican House and Senate supermajorities took the first important steps over Governor Andy Beshear’s veto to transition the Commonwealth of Kentucky from an income-based tax system to a consumption-based tax system. This was very important because when you look at which states experienced strong population growth according to 2020 Census data and which currently enjoy robust economies, it is states who have adopted these conservative economic policies. When looking at states such as Florida, Texas, and especially our southern neighbor Tennessee, you will see what happens when residents have more money in their pockets to spend as they see fit. When you look at higher income tax states like New York and California, the populations are declining and the economies are shrinking. The time to make these changes in Kentucky is now.
However, your Republican supermajorities were mindful that moving too fast could create economic imbalance such as was experienced in Kansas where the income tax was immediately taken to zero. Therefore, we established very specific economic growth benchmarks to make sure that the state had sufficient monies to fund the projects and programs such as roads and schools which are so important to every region of the commonwealth.
I am proud to say that Kentucky has met the economic growth benchmarks established. Therefore, I will proudly vote for House Bill 1 which will reduce the state income tax rate by an additional 0.5 percent, which will leave anywhere from $600 million to $650 million in the pockets of Kentucky taxpayers and consumers. This is the next responsible step in reducing Kentuckians’ income tax to zero which moves tax policy away from penalizing production and work to one based on consumption, leaving power in consumers’ pockets.
There are many vital policy items to take care of in this session. Each proposed measure, be it mundane or headline-worthy, will receive the debate and deliberation the legislative process requires. Feel free to share your thoughts throughout the session. Find the status of legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181. You can watch and follow legislative activity at KET/org/legislature and Legislature.ky.gov.
I am grateful for your trust in me to represent you in the state Senate. I look forward to building relationships and being a voice on my respective committees and in public policy discussions. Please contact my office at 502-564-8100 to share any thoughts or concerns.
Senator Phillip Wheeler, R-Pikeville, represents Kentucky’s 31st Senate District, including Elliott, Johnson, Lawrence, Martin, and Pike Counties. Wheeler is vice chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Labor. He also serves as a member of the Senate standing committees on Transportation, Natural Resources and Energy, Judiciary, and State and Local Government. Additionally, he is a member of the Capital Planning Advisory Board. Lastly, Wheeler was recently appointed to the Benefits Cliff Task Force during the 2022 Interim. For a high-resolution .jpeg of Wheeler, please visit:https://legislature.ky.gov/Legislators%20Full%20Res%20Images/senate131.jpg