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Northern Kentucky lawmakers provide insights to 2020 legislative session at October CBC Luncheon

The October Covington Business Council Luncheon focused on the 2020 legislative session.

The forum included Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown and Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington.

The October Covington Business Council Luncheon focused on the upcoming legislative session. Panelists included, left to right , Rep. Buddy Wheatley, D-Covington, Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill. Moderator Pat Crowley of Strategic Advisers LLC is standing at far right (photos by Mark Hansel)

The discussion, at the Madison Event Center in Covington, was moderated by Pat Crowley, partner at Strategic Advisers LLC. 

Topics included legislative priorities, sports wagering, and transportation.

McDonald, co-chair of the Senate Budget Committee talked about the 2020 budget. 

“Every two years we write a budget in the Commonwealth,” he said. “We get together and spend about $63 billion of your money and this year will be no different.”

WhileMcDaniel said the budget is looking better than some have in the past, it still has some challenges.

“The amount of mandatory new spending exceeds the amount of growth – we expected and that boils down to a couple of areas,” McDaniel said. “The pension system being the biggest driver of that. Secondarily we have the final payment due for the expansion of Medicaid.”

Other issues, including changes to how the federal government child health insurance program and miscellaneous constraints in the budget will again put the Commonwealth in a situation yet again where mandatory new expenditures will outstrip growth.

For the first time in more than15 years, however, McDaniel said all of the pension systems, with the exception of the teacher’s system, positively cash flowed and they are the single biggest cost driver of the growth in the budget. 

Koenig plans to sponsor a bill that would allow for sports betting at Kentucky racetracks, as well as Kentucky Speedway. He is optimistic that he has the support for passage and explained how it would work and why he believes it’s needed.

“You could either go to one of those facilities and places your bet, or more conveniently, go to one of those facilities, download their app,” Koenig said. “It is obviously something that is made legal in Illinois, Indiana, and was legal last year in West Virginia. We’re going to be surrounded by it.”

In October Thayer and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, released a joint statement, excepted below, indicating legalization of casino gambling in Kentucky is “off the table.”

“We want to be abundantly clear, there is absolutely no chance any such effort would pass the Senate in an upcoming session. Any bill proposing casino gambling would be dead on arrival…The Senate will continue to develop legislation that creates a better economic environment for the cultivation of job opportunities, which will ultimately lead to more income tax revenue, but casino gambling will be unequivocally off the table.”

The statement makes the passage of sports wagering legislation even more critical, if Kentucky is to compete with surrounding states for gaming revenue.

Thayer was asked about his priorities for transportation in the region and he pointed to previous successes that resulted in upgrades to Ky 17 in Independence and KY 16 in Taylor Mill.

“I’m working on a third one and that is the Kenton County section of KY 536. It’s my number one priority in Northern Kentucky for my district,” Thayer said. “We currently have money that we are using to purchase property right now that is divided into four segments.”

That includes the segment from the Industrial Park down to Bristow Road, the middle section of KY 536 in the county and the portion heading toward Independence. The final segment is Bristow Road coming down to Turkeyfoot Road.

After meeting with constituents, other legislators and the Transportation Cabinet, the decision was made to make the upgrades to the Industrial Road section a priority. It is in the June letting to begin construction next summer, but that is contingent on several factors, including successful negotiations with property owners.

Wheatley, who is in his first term, said his priorities would be education and fully funding the pensions.

“I have been very involved in the pension issue, it’s one of the reasons I did run,” Wheatley said. “I have some experience with it myself…as a retired firefighter for this city. I was encouraged to here state we are not so much in a crisis mode anymore.”

The monthly Covington Business Council Luncheon provides opportunities for members to interact with each other, as well elected officials and community leaders. Luncheons generally include a presentation or panel discussion on a topic of interest to the community.

The topic of the November Covington Business Council Luncheon at the Madison Event Center is Census 2020: What Covington Stands to Gain/Lose.

For more information, or to register, click here.

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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