Fletcher Speaks To Louisville Rotary

(LOUISVILLE, April 22nd, 2004 5:40 p.m.) -- A topic on many Kentuckians' minds dominated an address in Louisville Thursday by Governor Ernie Fletcher. He spoke to members of the Rotary Club on what's been accomplished in Frankfort so far and the work still left to do. WAVE 3's Frances Kuo was there as he used the occasion to push his tax modernization plan.

Far from the political firestorm in Frankfort the governor spoke to the Rotary Club. "None of us, even though we love a 1957 Chevy would get into a 1957 Chevy with no seatbelts and take our family from here to Florida or anyplace else." The Governor says the current state tax code is simply outdated.

He wants his budget tied to a tax modernization plan. A plan that would lower income taxes for poor families, but would increase taxes on things like alcohol and cigarettes. It would not raise additional income for the state.

It's at the heart of the current debate between Republicans who support his plan, and Democrats who oppose it.

Mary Lou Marzian, who represents Louisville in the State Legislature, says "We didn't get to hear from the public, it raised a lot of taxes on people, it didn't raise any money."

The Governor also stressed the need for medicaid services and educational programs like Read to Achieve.

Some in the audience said education needs to be at the top of the priority list. "My daughter's a schoolteacher," said Jerry Bennett, a consultant, "She teaches hearing impaired. The people who pick up the waste makes more money than she does."

Governor Fletcher says he will use his spending authority if a budget isn't reached. The State Attorney General says he would challenge it in court. "We'll certainly follow the precedent of what Governor Patton did when there was no budget," said Governor Fletcher. And if an agreement can be reached? "Let me say this, I'll be glad to call a special session if they'll sit down and agree on something."

An agreement that may not come anytime soon. "I think they need to play like they do in kindergarten, respect each other, keep their tempers in check, and let's do what the people of Kentucky elected us to do," said Marzian.

The current state budget expires on June 30th. Anytime before then the Governor has the choice to call legislators back to Frankfort to reach an agreement.