|By Keith Lawrence, Messenger-Inquirer, Owensboro, Ky.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
"We've cut all the low-hanging fruit," the
"The next budget will be very difficult," Rep.
Shah said he hopes the cuts can be through attrition rather than stopping services to people now receiving them.
"We understand the need," Ridley said, "but tell me which rock to look under."
"If people lose services like
He warned that electric bills could rise 30 percent over the next few years because of increased regulations from the
"People can't afford utilities now," Gooch said.
Asked about the chances of casino gambling being approved by the legislature, Gooch said that House Speaker
Ridley agreed that it's the
"Ultimately, it has to go to the people for a vote," he said. "If we agree to put in on the ballot, it would be voted on in
Ridley said the issue has been around for at least 20 years, "and it won't stop being an issue until the people decide it one way or the other."
He also said he doesn't expect the state to be able to provide general fund dollars for any water or sewer projects next year. But coal severance funds may be available in coal-producing counties, Ridley said.
He said there are two big gorillas in the room with the legislature.
The 600-pound gorilla, Ridley said, is redistricting -- not only the legislative districts, but the congressional districts as well.
The 500-pound gorilla, he said, is funding the state's retirement system.
The system, which covers 115,000 state workers and retirees, is underfunded to the tune of
"We've made a promise to those people," Gooch said. "But under the current system, you can start work at 18, retire at 45 and get your health insurance paid for the rest of your life. That's what's really killing us. And our investments aren't paying as much as they were."
Ridley said upgrading part of the Pennyrile,
Gooch warned that the
"It'll be very tough to do them all," he said.
Gooch said he had hoped that the legislature would already have handled redistricting in a special session.
"If we can't do it in the first few weeks, we shouldn't do it during this session," he said.
But legislators and members of
Gooch said he would let them represent the districts they now serve for the next two years.
He also called for tax reform.
"Sometimes, when you raise taxes, you get less money because you drive down demand for what's being taxed," Gooch said. "Sometimes, when you cut taxes, you get more revenue because you stimulate the economy."
He said, "We rob every fund we can find and put the money in the general fund. That's caused license fees for those departments to be raised and that's unfair. It's deceitful to spend more than we take in."
Tax reform will probably take a special session, Gooch said.
Gooch also said it's time to stop allowing companies to buy up tax bills in
"Maybe we could allow banks to pay the taxes and add them to what people owe," he said.
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