Kentucky's Democratic leaders are putting together an election year legislative agenda that we frankly find amazing. It's almost as if they want to get shellacked this November, and they may be well on their way.
Gov. Steve Beshear unveiled his vision for the coming biennium in his State of the Commonwealth address last week. He lamented, "Balancing our budgets during the recession, we were sometimes forced to cut far too deeply, decimating many programs and services Kentuckians desperately needed."
Really? Funny, because we can't think of one that we've missed.
But Beshear says Kentucky needs "more resources to make needed investments in the future."
Ah, yes, "investments." That's President Obama's favorite word for a tax increase, and indeed, Beshear says he will soon unveil a "tax modernization proposal" to raise additional revenue. The "modernization" would involve expanding the sales tax to services, like haircuts and tire changes. You can't say we didn't warn you.
Additionally, the governor called yet again for implementation of state sponsored casino gambling as another source of revenue. Yes, this would mean breaking up a few homes and bankrupting some lonely old people, but hey, it's for the children. Or is it the horses? Hard to tell, since that story changes every year.
And just for grins, the governor also voiced his support for legislation to ban smoking in restaurants statewide. That wouldn't bother us, particularly, but from a political standpoint, we can't imagine that playing well outside of the state's largest cities.
In the House, meanwhile, Majority Leader Greg Stumbo has put forth his own package of uniquely bad ideas. We have previously mentioned Stumbo's desire to add a penny to the state sales tax to fund an as-yet-vaguely described education trust.
Now he has trotted out another winner. He wants to raise the minimum wage in Kentucky from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. That's a great idea. It will create thousands of new call center jobs. In India.
In Kentucky, of course, it will only serve to further lengthen the unemployment lines.
The latest available employment report for Kentucky covers the month of November. That report states that in November 2013 year-over-year unemployment rose in 96 Kentucky counties while declining in 16. Kentucky's jobless rate came in at 8.2 percent that month, up .2 percent from a year ago. That compares to a national unemployment rate of 7 percent in November, down .8 percent from a year earlier.
Against this backdrop, Kentucky's top Democrats want to raise the sales tax, extend that tax to include services, ban smoking in every restaurant in the state, and crush small businesses and start-ups with a $10 minimum wage.
That's some package. If they get their way, there will be a lot fewer jobs in Kentucky. But at least we'd have gambling. Maybe we'll all get lucky.
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