Fact✓Check | The Kentucky Debate: Income tax and abortion

Fact✓Check | The Kentucky Debate: Income tax and abortion
Published: Oct. 24, 2023 at 10:51 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - As part of our Campaign 2023 commitment to holding the candidates accountable, WKYT is providing context surrounding several topics of discussion from The Kentucky Debate.

Claim: “I will be the only candidate on this stage tonight that will say we will eliminate the state’s income tax to give you more of your hard money into your pockets.”

Who said it: Daniel Cameron

Fact✓Check: Mechanisms are already in place to begin the process of phasing out Kentucky’s income tax.

House Bill 8, which became law in 2022, established conditions to allow lawmakers to incrementally cut the state’s individual income tax.

The bill triggered a half-percent reduction - from 5% to 4.5% - beginning January 1, 2023, and lawmakers voted to drop the rate again - to 4% - beginning in January 2024.

The conditions for reduction are:

  • whether the balance of the state’s “rainy day” fund is at least 10% of the annual budget; and
  • whether spending is less than or equal to the state’s revenue if the income tax were cut by another 1%.

Cuts are not automatic. Even when those conditions are met, state lawmakers do still have to approve a reduction in order for it to take effect.

Yet, given the current makeup of the state legislature, cuts likely could continue to take effect even without much help from the governor.

In fact, Gov. Beshear vetoed the original bill establishing this procedure, citing concerns about the 6% sales and use tax it newly imposed on nearly three dozen categories of services.

The bill became law anyway when lawmakers overrode his veto.

Claim: “That first income tax bill wasn’t a cut. It raised sales tax on things like conventions and background checks that keeps kids safe.”

Who said it: Andy Beshear

Fact✓Check: The bill, as outlined above, did trigger a half-percent cut, but it also extended the state’s sales tax to nearly three dozen new services:

  • photography and photo finishing services
  • marketing services
  • telemarketing services
  • public opinion and research polling services
  • lobbying services
  • executive employee recruitment services
  • website design and development services
  • website hosting services
  • facsimile transmission services
  • private mailroom services
  • bodyguard services
  • residential and nonresidential security system monitoring services
  • private investigation services
  • process server services
  • repossession of tangible personal property services
  • personal background check services
  • parking services
  • road and travel services provided by automobile clubs
  • condominium time-share exchange services
  • rental of space for meetings, conventions, short-term business uses, entertainment events, weddings, banquets, parties and other short-term social events
  • social event planning and coordination services
  • leisure, recreational and athletic instructional services
  • recreational camp tuition and fees
  • personal fitness training services
  • massage services, except when medically necessary
  • cosmetic surgery services
  • body modification services
  • testing services
  • interior decorating and design services
  • household moving services
  • specialized design services
  • lapidary services
  • labor and services to repair or maintain commercial refrigeration equipment and systems when no tangible personal property is sold in that transaction including service calls and trip charges
  • labor to repair or alter apparel, footwear, watches or jewelry when no tangible personal property is sold in that transaction
  • prewritten computer software access services

Gov. Beshear signed the bill reducing the state’s income tax to 4%. At the time he said he believed that lowering the income tax has “long-term repercussions” but that it could provide Kentuckians with some relief from inflation.

The state’s income tax rate will not be any lower in 2025. An August report from the state budget director found that the state did not meet all of the conditions necessary for lawmakers to vote on another reduction next year.

That means cutting spending could be a main focus when lawmakers gather in the 2024 legislative session to craft a budget for the next two years.

On the debate stage, Beshear said he does want to continue to make reductions to the income tax “wisely and carefully.”

Cameron has vowed that his budget proposals “will keep Kentucky on the pathway to eliminating the income tax.” He has not detailed how.

Claim: “Andy Beshear wants no limits on abortion, because his record demonstrates that.”

Who said it: Daniel Cameron

Fact✓Check: Asked on the debate stage, Gov. Beshear did not say where exactly he would draw the line but did say: “Since I ran for attorney general, I’ve always been public that I support reasonable restrictions especially on late-term procedures.”

Beshear said the definition of “late-term” was decided by the courts in Roe v. Wade. Under the Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, a woman’s right to an abortion was protected prior to the viability of the fetus.

As attorney general, Beshear in 2017 said he would defend the state’s law requiring an ultrasound before an abortion but refused to defend the state’s 20-week abortion ban, calling it “clearly unconstitutional.”

As governor, he vetoed a 15-week abortion ban, citing the lack of exceptions for rape and incest.

Claim: “My opponent has had 11 different chances to look at a camera and to tell you whether he is personally for exceptions for rape and incest. I’ll show you how: I am personally for exceptions for rape and incest. Those individuals deserve options.”

Who said it: Andy Beshear

Fact✓Check: Kentucky has a near-total ban on abortions. As attorney general, Cameron has expressed support for it and defended it in court.

Of the 22 states that ban or restrict abortion, eight have exceptions for rape and incest, according to an analysis by the independent nonprofit KFF. Kentucky does not.

A bill to add them - filed this past session by a Louisville Republican - was never even assigned to a committee.

Ads have attacked Cameron’s support for the state’s abortion ban.

During the general election campaign, in an apparent reversal of his previous stance, Cameron began saying that he would sign legislation that provided exceptions for rape and incest.

On the debate stage Tuesday night, Cameron reiterated that he would sign a bill with those exceptions but, when pressed for clarity, did not say he would push lawmakers to do it.

Last fall, Kentucky voters rejected a proposed constitutional amendment that would have explicitly stated that the commonwealth’s constitution contains no right to an abortion.

[Read more about the candidates’ positions on abortion via the Herald-Leader | In their own words: Where KY’s gubernatorial candidates stand on abortion]