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<!---##CCI#[Text Tag=head Group=All]--->Battles over taxes on several fronts <!---##CCI#[/Text]---> Battles over taxes on several fronts


You'd have needed a scorecard, a slide rule and a big table to keep track of all the battles over taxes this week.

The biggest involved Gov. Ernie Fletcher's tax modernization plan, which was passed by the state House Friday. Two lesser battles involve primarily Northern Kentucky: the ongoing payroll tax dispute between counties and cities, and a new lawsuit over the storm-water fee collected by Sanitation District No. 1.

•  Fletcher's tax modernization plan might have cleared its first major hurdle, but not without substantial changes. In a rare display of bi-partisanship, GOP and Democratic leaders in the House worked out a plan to, among other things, lower Fletcher's 31-cent increase on a pack of cigarettes to 26 cents, change how alcohol would be taxed, make the income tax friendlier to people with the lowest incomes and make the drop in corporate income tax more gradual.

Leaders insisted their plan was just as "revenue neutral'' as Fletcher's plan, which is ironic, given that the man who wrote the Bible on "revenue neutral,'' Grover Norquist of the Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform, this week dropped his support of the governor's plan. Norquist urged legislators who've sold their souls by signing his group's anti-tax pledge to delay tax reform until an outside team of auditors can analyze it.

Kentuckians would be better off if Norquist turned his attention toward, say, South Dakota.

•  A compromise bill that legislators think would allow Kenton and Campbell counties to collect payroll taxes in cities with similar taxes made it out of committee. But the prospects for House Bill 400, which absolves the counties from having to give millions of dollars in payroll tax credits, are uncertain.

Our local legislators still disagree (quite vocally, too) on whether the bill is the best solution, and seven committee members said they approved it just to get out to the full House. Legislators from other regions said they were looking for guidance and consensus from Northern Kentucky lawmakers -- and weren't getting it. And of course there's the question of whether the change would survive a likely court challenge.

•  Fort Wright developer Rick Wessels and Florence resident Thomas Seiter are challenging the right of the Sanitation District to collect a $45 a household surcharge (and much more for businesses) to improve the region's storm-water collection system. They want the district to refund $9 million collected since 2003.

The lawsuit, filed in Boone County Circuit Court, prompted the agency to stop all work related to storm water.

The courts will determine whether SD1 dotted all the "i's'' and cross the "t's'' in the laws determining its authority, but if the district loses this lawsuit, we predict cities are going to be in a world of hurt if they have to individually meet federal storm-sewer mandates.

Happy ending

Certainly one of the happiest reports in the news this week was the birth of a healthy baby girl to Sarah Brady, the woman who fought off and stabbed to death an attacker who police think intended to steal her fetus.

Brady's lawyer said Mckaila Grace was delivered by Caesarean section Wednesday during a routine procedure and weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces.

Here's hoping mother and daughter enjoy some privacy and a normal life.

Bank of Kentucky Center

Northern Kentucky University announced this week that the Bank of Kentucky has agreed to pay up to $6 million for naming rights to the regional events center being planned for the Highland Heights campus.

The bank agreed to cover 10 percent of the cost of the arena, up to $6 million, in exchange for naming rights. It will also get a luxury suite, access to premium tickets and free use of the facility rent free for one special event each year.

Regional leaders, meanwhile, are working furiously to get state funding for the project, which as it now stands would entail an arena seating 8,000 to 10,000 that could be used for sporting events, concerts or other functions.

The Bank of Kentucky's contribution, by the way, represents serious money. By way of comparison, Cinergy paid $9 million to get its name on the Cincinnati convention center (which is in the midst of a $160 million renovation and expansion), and Fifth Third Bank's donation of $10 million for the new athletic complex at the University of Cincinnati led to the renaming of the basketball arena to the Fifth Third Center. None of this can touch the $75 million over 30 years that Great American Insurance is paying for naming rights at the Reds' ball park. But that name -- Great American Ball Park -- is such a great fit it hardly seems like advertising.

Rough weather

Comair mechanics this week voted down a proposed five-year contract, even as pilots were preparing to vote on a separate pact that would freeze their wages.

Officials said the deal with Comair's union mechanics would have provided a 2 percent pay raise starting June 1, with the understanding that pay would be renegotiated the following year. Mechanics there now earn between $12.01 and $21.97 an hour.

Comair is trying to negotiate new agreements with its mechanics, pilots and flight attendants, saying they could pave the way for an expansion that would add 35 jets to a fleet that now numbers 164.

Dan Hassert is editorial page editor of The Kentucky Post. He can be reached at dhassert@cincypost.com. Robert White is associate editor of The Kentucky Post and Cincinnati Post. He can be reached at rwhite@cincypost.com.


Publication Date: 02-19-2005
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