Sunday, January 07, 2001

Ky. tax reform mocked




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        FRANKFORT — Last year, when Gov. Paul Patton and Senate Republican President David Williams were trying to negotiate a tax reform package, the scene got ugly.

        The Republican Senator accused the Democratic governor of being “mouthy drunk” during one of their private meetings. Mr. Patton denied he was soused, but a rift was born.

        Well, now Mr. Williams is the one with the hangover.

        He used a Wednesday night press conference to basically spit all over Mr. Patton's call for comprehensive tax reform.

        Mr. Williams claims that after a tax package was finally negotiated, Mr. Patton's “minions,” including his daughter, Nicki Patton, the head of the Kentucky Democratic Party, accused the Republicans of saddling the people of Kentucky with a tax increase.

        “I do not see at this particular time, without some serious changes in approach or attitude, the probability that a tax-neutral package will pass the General Assembly,” he said.

        “We did that in the last session and the ink was not dry ... until (reporters) quoted the governor's daughter ... saying it was a Democratic budget and a Republican tax increase,” Mr. Williams said.

        You can't blame Mr. Williams for being skittish about dealing with Democrats when it comes to taxes. He's right about them trying to lay the tax increase on the Republicans.

        Not that it worked. The Republicans held their Senate majority in the November election despite attacks from the Dems that GOP members voted for a tax increase on long distance phone calls — which many Democrats voted for as well.

        Mr. Williams is also convinced that tax reform means at least some tax increases. The Republican-controlled Senate, he said, “will not go there.”

        But how about bygones being bygones? Mr. Patton seemed to be saying as much during his Wednesday night State of the Commonwealth address.

        “The time has come for action” on tax reform, he said. “I know there will be critics. Nothing we can do that's meaningful or important can ever be done without criticism.

        “(But) I don't think any endeavor could do more to heal the wounds that permeate the body politic of Kentucky State Government,” Mr. Patton said.

        When just about everybody else in the House chamber gave Mr. Patton a standing ovation, Mr. Williams refused to stand or applaud.

        House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, a strong Patton ally, said the governor was offering an olive branch to Republicans and that Mr. Williams was playing partisan politics.

        But Mr. Williams has been through the wars with Mr. Patton and the Democrats. He believes the governor is still trying to pick a fight “under the guise of being conciliatory.”

        Mr. Williams seems to relish a good political squabble, but he also learned a hard, very public lesson in his last go-round with the Democrats.

        He's keeping his distance, which is probably a good idea in the political chamber of horrors that is Frankfort. But he should make sure he doesn't stray too far, or nothing will get done on a tax reform package that is badly needed in this state.

        E-mail crowleys@cinci.infi.net.
       

       



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