Sunday, June 11, 2000

GOP learns about taxes the hard way

        Tax-and-spenders. That's always been a favorite jab for Northern Kentucky Republicans when they attack Democrats.

        Not that the moniker hasn't been deserved. Democrats have given Kentucky residents some of the biggest tax increases in history, including the Mother of All Tax Hikes, the $1 billion tax increase that paid for the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act.

        And during this year's General Assembly legislative session, Democratic Gov. Paul Patton pushed for almost $700 million in new taxes, including an increase in the state gasoline tax of almost a dime a gallon. With the price at the pump hovering around $2 a gallon, just think how angry consumers would be right now if the tax had gone through.

        In fact, it was Republicans in the state Senate who stood up to Mr. Patton's tax plan, negotiating a much smaller increase of about $180 million that did not include the gas tax.

        Yep, the GOP has made a lot of political hay over the years berating Democrats for being the party that raises taxes.

        Well, read my lips:

        Guess who has been on a tax-raising frenzy? Our friends in the Grand Old Party.

        Hard to believe, isn't it, that many of the same pols who have bashed Democrats at every turn for raising taxes are now doing the same darn thing.

        Just last week the Republican-controlled Kenton County Fiscal Court raised the county's payroll tax to pay for a new jail.

        During the legislative session, a lot of Republicans in Frankfort joined Democrats in raising taxes to pay for a whole slew of community projects and programs across the state. GOP members for the most part also backed a bill that allows the fiscal courts in Northern Kentucky to raise the region's hotel tax.

        And last year, the Kenton County Fiscal Court raised the county's phone tax.

        This column is not meant to bash Republicans for raising taxes. It's not necessarily meant to pat them on the back, either. Nobody likes paying higher taxes, whether it's a Democrat or a Republican or a combination of both doing the raising.

        But maybe in future campaigns Republicans won't be so quick to draw lines in the sand, as GOP members of the legislature did when they said that no way would they pass a tax increase. Then, of course, they went out and did just that.

        The message here is that it's always easier on the outside looking in. When Republicans didn't have a lot of power in Northern Kentucky politics it was easy to hit the Dems for raising taxes, partly because it made good political rhetoric and partly because the Democrats were guilty as charged.

        Get into a position where you have to actually make the tough decisions and the perspective changes. It's not as easy as it looks running a county or holding a state office now, is it?

        In many ways, members of the all-Republican Kenton County Fiscal Court should be lauded for making one heckuva tough call. They inherited a mess from past administrations and stood up with a tough vote on raising taxes, one that will certainly anger of lot of their short-sighted Republican supporters.

        “I want to express my personal appreciation for your willingness to be able to take a tough stand on a detention center that's been talked about for 10 years,” Kenton Judge-executive Dick Murgatroyd told his fellow fiscal court members after their unanimous vote last week.

        Read his lips: That's what leadership is all about.

        Patrick Crowley can be reached at 578-5581, or by e-mail at