Don’t let the holiday season fool you. The happy sentiments and goodwill toward men that many express this time of year will soon fade away, as there are issues facing Kentuckians that can’t be ignored for long.
And with emotion and politics rolled into one, the situation likely won’t be too pretty.
Our state is losing the revenue game. We just don’t have enough money to cover the services we expect out of government. This isn’t the fault of one administration or one state legislature. This problem dates back decades and has been ignored by elephants and donkeys alike.
In 2018, we are likely to witness Kentucky’s financial struggles come to a head. Though the state’s pension failure is not just a matter of revenue, it’s definitely an example of the commonwealth not having enough money to pay for its promises.
Kentucky should pay what it owes to teachers and other state employees, both those currently working and those who have retired. Even freezing their cost-of-living increase is unfair, to say nothing of it probably being illegal, as teachers don’t draw Social Security and must live off their pensions that were guaranteed to them when they accepted their jobs.
But Kentucky is woefully behind when it comes to financial solvency, and something drastic is going to have to change if we expect to stabilize state budgets, pensions and programs funded by the government that almost all of us utilize.
Compromise is a word that’s thrown around often in this partisan country that we live in, but it’s a hard pill to swallow. Kentuckians must compromise on some issues to save this state, or we will be unable to attract teachers to educate our children, state troopers to protect our residents or quality politicians to run for office (if we haven’t already reached that point with our elected officials).
We need to explore expanding gaming and the legalization of marijuana to garner more revenue for Kentucky. The cases for legalizing such practices have been made scores of times, but I’ll just add that in addition to bringing more tax money to the state, legalizing pot could help Kentucky with its opiate problem as it was proven to have done in Colorado.
While some legislators have crowed about how gambling is a sin and they won’t support it, robbing a child of a good education and breaking your promise to pay pensions to state employees are also sins in my book.
We need to compromise on the amount of tax credits we’re handing out to businesses, many of which are coming in from out-of-state. Jobs are great, even though wages are more important, but if we can’t collect enough revenue to pay our bills, then we don’t need to let anyone eat for free. We can still support businesses, but not at the cost of gutting our school systems. Not everyone can afford to go to a private school.
Speaking of schools, it’s time we reached a compromise on spending. We’ve heard our Barren County superintendents speak out against pension reform, but right here in Barren County is a good example of where some better decision making is needed.
Do we really need three school systems in a county this size? How much could be saved by combining the Glasgow and Barren County school systems? I’m sure some hate that idea, but I don’t think keeping schools separated over athletic rivalries makes any sense at all.
And speaking of athletics, in a time when Barren County Schools is facing, according to their superintendent, some pretty serious repercussions due to the potential budget cuts and pension reform, should the system really be building a new, state-of-the-art football stadium?
I know some will respond that building projects come from a different funding source than teachers' pay, but to the taxpayer, it’s all the same.
I’m sure we can all think of some ways where we can give a little and get a lot in return. Come to think of it, isn’t compromise really one of the main facets of the holiday season?
You don’t want to go to the in-laws on Christmas, but you do it because you love your wife. You don’t want to spend most of your paycheck buying gifts, but you do so because you know you’ll be getting gifts in return. You don’t want to give up your best snacks for Santa, but you do it because you know the guy needs the energy to deliver all those presents.
Compromise is a wonderful thing, and we’ll need plenty of it in 2018 if we’re to move forward.
Suddeath is the editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. His column appears in the Thursday edition and at various times throughout the week. Reach him at 270-678-5171, or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DSuddeathGDT