Commonwealth Journal

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February 8, 2013

House passes bill to rein in Kentucky taxing districts


Somerset —

Turner did not speak to any specific situations within his home county, but said that oversight was important “as a general rule” in these matters. He told the Commonwealth Journal he would need to make sure nothing had changed in the plan before completely giving it his stamp of approval, but was in favor of what had been proposed.
“I think the taxpayers have a right to know where any dollar they pays goes too,” said the Republican legislator for Pulaski and Laurel Counties. “I’ve always been someone who believes in more accountability from government.”
Edelen’s report last year showing Kentucky has 1,268 taxing districts that collect $1.5 billion in taxes and fees each year, plus $1 billion in government grants and private donations.
The measure approved by the House Friday sets up a system for auditing the entities and would create an online database where taxpayers could review financial reports for each taxing district.
The House passed the measure 96-1, making it one of the first bills to clear the chamber this year. It now goes to the Senate, where it already is receiving favorable reviews.
"That it has moved through the House so swiftly speaks to the overwhelming need to bring transparency and accountability to a $2.7 billion layer of government," state Auditor Adam Edelen said. "I encourage the Senate to give similar treatment to this important legislation and deliver to taxpayers the reform that they deserve."
Besides improved oversight, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo's proposal, House Bill 1, would require leaders of local taxing districts to undergo ethics training and to answer to a local ethics commission, just as other government officials do.
Although questionable spending has been identified among a handful of taxing districts, Stumbo said he believes most are operating lawfully and honorably.
"This is not an act in response to bad conduct," he said. "This is an act that compliments good conduct."
The Associated Press contributed to this story

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