The McCracken County Fiscal Court floated a trial balloon earlier this week in response to a budget shortfall and mounting employee pension liabilities:
Taxing residents' insurance premiums.
The balloon, launched publicly during Monday night's meeting, should be grounded as a flawed idea, the editorial board contends.
In the spirit of fairness and full disclosure, we concede that most current fiscal court members shouldn't be held responsible for the budget woes McCracken is facing, which trace back several years and past courts.
Likewise, the current court had nothing to do with decades of bad policies by state lawmakers that led to the pension crisis, among the worst in the nation and an albatross on the commonwealth.
Nonetheless, today's fiscal court seems to have adopted a tax-first approach as a method to balance the budget. Talk of taxing insurance premiums comes on the heels of the court raising the transient room tax from 6 to 9 percent.
County figures indicate these two broader taxes could yield somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.7 million total in additional money. That's a nice cushion in lean times, true.
But, on the insurance premiums idea at least, it's a short-term gain that isn't worth the added burden on county residents.
We also have to wonder if the fiscal court is putting as much emphasis on economic development -- creating new revenue -- as it seems to be on levying new taxes. After all, the only lasting solution to McCracken's money problems is expanding its tax base, not ratcheting down on people and businesses already here and paying their fair share.
The county must give a longer look to revenue it's already legally entitled to, but for years has been left uncollected.
Earlier this month, McCracken Property Valuation Administrator Bill Dunn wrote in a guest column in The Sun that "many real estate assessments have been ignored for many years," a problem he inherited and pledged to fix. If he's successful, the county's coffers improve, and without another new tax.
We'd anticipate county officials, if they pursue the insurance premiums tax, would use the city of Paducah as cover, citing that city residents already pay a 6 percent rate.
But this, too, would be shortsighted.
The expectations for city and county government are dramatically different. In the city, residents expect services and amenities -- quality of life. In the county, it's strictly the former -- government when needed.
In response to the fiscal court and its trial balloon, we say it's too much, too soon, an unnecessary intrusion. You've got to find a better way.