Kentucky Lawmakers Override Governor Veto on Tax, Budget Bills

Kentucky Lawmakers Override Governor Veto on Tax, Budget Bills

As Kentucky teachers declare victory after the Republican-dominated legislature overrode vetoes from the state's GOP governor of a spending plan that included new money for education, the question going forward is whether teachers will be able to sustain their momentum into the fall elections when Republicans will try to defend their super majority.

The Kentucky House of Representatives has overridden a veto from Gov. Matt Bevin to make it easier for some agencies to leave the state's troubled retirement system. The Senate vote was 34-4 for the governor's veto override for the budget bill. Both chambers are controlled by Republicans.

"These tough on crime bills end up disproportionately, and I would say unfortunately, tough on black Americans", said State Sen.

The law includes a 50 cent cigarette tax increase and a sales tax on a variety of services including dry cleaning, pet grooming and landscaping.

"We want to come up with a smart, thoughtful, more balanced approach", Bevin said at a news conference where he announced his vetoes.

The impasse between the governor and the Republican lawmakers kicked off earlier this month, when the state legislature unveiled a tax package to dramatically cut income and business taxes in the state.

Classes were canceled in communities across the state as teachers descended on the statehouse, wearing red T-shirts and carrying signs that said "I love my public school". The rally took on a festival-like atmosphere in Kentucky as some teachers sat in lawn chairs or sprawled out on blankets. Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young's hit "Teach Your Children" bellowed from loud speakers before speeches began.

"I don't want to be out of my classroom".

The two-year operating budget includes record new spending for public education, fueled by a 50-cent increase in the cigarette tax and a 6 percent sales tax on some services including home and auto fix.

Bevin had vetoed both bills, the budget and tax bills, warning the new taxes would not generate enough money to cover the new spending. But 57 House Republicans, later joined by just enough Senate Republicans, voted to override, asserting their independence after a tumultuous year marred by a sexual harassment scandal.

"If you look back to the governor's original budget, our district would stand to lose $3 million and overall, Northern Kentucky districts would lose about $30 million", Melanie Gleason, a teacher at Erlanger-Elsemere's Tichenor Middle School, said Friday morning.

"It's fantastic that even when Republicans control both chambers of state government as well as the Governor's Mansion that they can't even agree on the direction to take Kentucky", Self said.

"With that reasoning we would never have any vacation or breaks in school, and who knows what would happen in the summer", he said.

Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, acknowledged the state needs to provide more services to prevent gang membership, but said the bill helps on the enforcement side.

Democrats in Kentucky were quick to criticize the discord in the Republican Party and the tax package as favoring the wealthy.

The Senate was poised to take up the budget veto later. "It's not improving education: We're still 16 percent below where we were a decade ago on education funding", said Jason Bailey, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Bevin, who hours later would see his veto of an education-boosting state budget overriden by state lawmakers, characterized the attitudes of striking teachers as cavalier and flippant about student safety.

Republican Rep. Jeff Hoover told his colleagues not to trust Bevin, reminding them the governor promised to call a special session a year ago to change the state's struggling pension system but never did.

"The only reason we did not have a special session previous year is because Jeff Hoover, a married man, was sexually involved with a very young, single member of his staff and was paying hush money to hide his actions", Bevin responded on Twitter. The demonstrations were inspired by West Virginia teachers, whose nine-day walkout after many years without raises led to a 5 percent pay increase.

In Arizona, the mere threat of a teacher walkout appeared to have changed that state's Republican governor's mind about teacher raises.

In Oklahoma, teachers ended two weeks of walkouts Thursday, shifting their focus to electing pro-education candidates in November. Gov. Mary Fallin signed legislation raising teacher salaries by about $6,100 and providing millions in new education funding, but many say schools need more money.

Thousands of teachers rallied inside and outside the Capitol on Friday.

Kentucky teachers haven't asked for a raise. "They've prioritized greed instead of good policy for the people".

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