TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer
Kentucky state Senator Robert Stivers spoke at Wednesday’s Kiwanis Club of Corbin meeting at David’s restaurant before a crowd of about 20 club members.
Stivers began his speech by talking about his family and himself. Stivers is from London, and he said his children have been successful both academically and, in the case of his oldest son, professionally. He currently continues to practice law in Manchester.
Stivers spent time discussing the state budget.
“Different areas of the budget will see different opinions from everyone,” Stivers said. He talked about education’s priority in the budget; though he feels as though spending is not necessarily the way to improve education, he mentioned Gov. Steve Beshear’s proposal to cut other state services in favor of education.
Stivers also explained the budget approval process from the state, and the roles of Kentucky’s House and Senate in passing a budget. He mentioned that mandates from the federal government concerning the Affordable Care Act will affect the budget process this cycle.
Stivers went on to discuss the Affordable Care Act’s impact on the commonwealth. He praised Beshear’s efforts at creating a functioning state website, but stated that although the goals of the Affordable Care Act are “commendable” the policy itself was bad.
Stivers quoted several numbers related to the Affordable Care Act, noting that 280,000 people on the individual healthcare market were lost and must now find insurance. Stivers also stated that enrollment goals have fallen far short of projections with only 70,000 signed up.
“[The Affordable Care Act] is like a 1974 Pinto–as soon as you wreck it, it’ll blow up,” Stivers said. “It has not done what it was perceived to do.”
Stivers also stated that although the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the tab for the Affordable Care Act, “in a few years” they will only cover 90 percent, which will cost Kentucky $600 per person per month, or $240 million total. Stivers said last year’s budget surplus was only $5 million, and the state could not afford the Affordable Care Act.
The mention of last year’s surplus got Stivers back to Kentucky’s budget. He speculated that the budget will be the biggest issue this session. Stivers said that some of the budget issues, namely tax reform and the expansion of Kentucky’s gaming laws, will be “Family Circus issues” – “everybody can be for it, but nobody knows what ‘it’ is.”
Stivers went on to elaborate that people had different ideas for expanded gaming depending on what their role in it was. He also noted that Kentucky’s tax code was in need of reform because it was “antiquated.” Many of Kentucky’s taxes, Stivers said, are based on dying industries like tobacco and landline phones.
“Technology requires change,” Stivers said. He also mentioned other states that had attempted budget reform with across-the-board tax increases and how that failed. Stivers believed that tax reform had to be looked at carefully and taxes needed to be selectively increased or decreased.
Stivers concluded his speech with discussing his place in the Kentucky government. He explained that he was different from former Senator David Williams, and that he was modifying his staff to better suit his needs.
“There’s a time for politics and a time for policy,” Stivers said. He explained his role as a policy maker – he was among the members of Kentucky’s government who crafted policy to be implemented by Beshear. Stivers said he strove to work closely with Beshear to implement effective policies in the state.
Stivers ended his speech by taking questions from the audience. He answered a question about Corbin’s tax situation, as Corbin by state law cannot occupy more than two counties, and explained how the taxes worked in favor of counties with less than 30,000 people. Taxes from one county’s section of Corbin could go to benefit another county. Stivers concluded that tax codes in the state concerning places like Corbin were in serious need of reform and clarification.