By Lauren Gabbard
Special to the NKyTribune
I’m a 25-year-old from Campbell County. I love Kentucky, and as a young person I want to be able to put down roots and find my place in our beautiful state.
Kentuckians are facing a lot of hard problems, but I’ve been getting more involved in my local community and I’m seeing a lot of people working on great ideas.
People have amazing ideas for their communities when you ask them–a state-wide Redbud tree festival, creating friendships between teenagers and elderly people, or building an economy that celebrates tourism and local artists.
It’s time for our neighbors and legislators to support each other and fund ideas that can help us move forward. But with the way our Governor is talking about reforming our tax code I’m scared we’re heading in the wrong direction.
The more that I meet people across the state, the more I see that the different ways we’re all struggling are part of a bigger picture. Almost 20 percent of all Kentuckians live in poverty. We rank 47th in the country for investing in education. We have high rates of death from cancers, heart disease, and a slew of other health issues.
Our infrastructure is crumbling: In Northern Kentucky water pipes are bursting, roads need a lot of work, there’s not enough public transit or sidewalks for people to get around, many people don’t have insulation in their homes, and we’re all just waiting for the Brent Spence bridge to collapse.
And that’s just my experience in the northern part of the state.
Not that we all don’t share some of the same issues. A lot of my friends turned to drugs and became addicted. I worry about them every day, especially because of the spike in drug overdose deaths. In 2015, 1,283 Kentuckians died from overdoses. Of those, 203 were from Kenton, Boone, and Campbell counties. Some were even younger than me.
There are a lot of reasons why this has happened, but there’s not a lot of options for people without a lot of money to get help. You can blame whoever or whatever you want — I just don’t want anyone else to die.
How can we solve these problems?
Sometimes I feel discouraged, but Kentucky deserves better. I know that Kentuckians have the solutions. People want to connect, they want to build new economies in their communities and get things done. But no one has enough money to make a real difference, and budgets keep getting cut. If we want to really address these issues, then we need a bigger budget.
Gov. Matt Bevin and many of our legislators want to pass a plan that gives more tax breaks to corporations and the 1 percent. They also want to tax groceries, which will hurt Kentuckians who already don’t have enough to eat.
Our Governor wants to attract business and bring improvements to the economy that we desperately need. But instead of bringing in outsiders, we have the option to invest in ourselves. We can write a budget that puts our tax dollars to work in our local towns, where everyday Kentuckians can take the lead in shaping our communities.
Take a look at your neighbors–Together we have the solutions to our communities’ challenges. We need our state government to write a tax code that invests in us and values us; one that puts our tax dollars back into our communities and not into corporations’ profits. As we all file our taxes, we need to remember what our tax dollars fund that make our communities better for everyone. Pay attention, because this fall our Governor wants to re-write our tax structure, and it may hurt you and me.
If this concerns you, I encourage you to make your voice heard. Calling your legislators is a place to start. So is talking with your families, friends, and neighbors about what you’d like to see happen in the state of Kentucky. Get to know your city councils, or join grassroots groups like Kentuckians for the Commonwealth. Kentuckians are doing amazing things every day, and I know we have the ability to create thriving communities.
Here’s to a better future.
Lauren Gabbard is an NKU grad with a degree in Political Science and Economics.