Week 1 of the 2023 Legislative Session

As we convene the 2023 regular session, I would like first to wish you a happy new year. I honored to once again serve as Senate majority floor leader; the longest-serving Republican majority floor leader in state history.

This 2023 legislative session kicked off on a storm-filled Tuesday with heavy rains and high winds. Floor activity on day one of session felt like a whirlwind itself, as the body welcomed new members along with their closest friends and family who were special guests in the Senate chamber and gallery.

For a little civics lesson: Legislative sessions in odd-numbered years are known as ‘short sessions,’ consisting of 30 days, unlike the longer 60-day budget session, which occurs in even-numbered years. Short session years are intended to evaluate previously enacted policies and address any necessary legislative clean-up. As outlined in the Constitution of Kentucky, the General Assembly must gavel into session on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in January, and adjourn after the first week for a constitutionally-mandated break. We will reconvene on the first Tuesday in February and are required by the state constitution to adjourn by March 30.

The primary focus of week one in the Senate was to swear in our six new members, pass this year’s Senate rules, officially confirm committee assignments, and introduce any critical legislation demanding immediate attention. Our newly elected members are Amanda Mays Bledsoe, R-Lexington, Gary Boswell, R-Owensboro, Shelley Funke Frommeyer, R-Alexandria, Lindsey Tichenor, R-LaGrange, Matt Deneen, R-Elizabethtown, and Gex Williams, R-Verona. They took their oaths of office on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. I’m pleased to welcome our new members and I look forward to witnessing the good work they will do in our chamber and for their respective districts.

I have great news for Kentucky taxpayers. On Jan. 1, the first automatic reduction of our state income tax went into effect. The 2022 House Bill 8 outlined the framework by which the first half-percent was reduced automatically once specific economic triggers were reached, taking the commonwealth from a 5 percent to a 4.5 percent state income tax.  The reduction for the second 0.5 percent must be introduced like any other bill and be voted on by the General Assembly.

To continue down this path towards further income tax reduction, our House of Representatives introduced House Bill 1, which sets the rate for another 0.5 percent income tax reduction to 4 percent. It was voted out of the state House and moves over to the Senate for consideration. The bill is now in our care, and we will take prompt action on it when we return on Feb.  7.

House Bill 1 is significant in that this additional 0.5 percent reduction will leave anywhere from $600 million to $650 million in the pockets of Kentucky taxpayers and consumers. This is the next responsible step in reducing Kentuckians' income tax to 0 percent which moves tax policy away from penalizing production and work to one based on consumption, leaving power in consumers' pockets. When looking at states such as Florida, Tennessee, and Texas, you will find the economic successes of similar conservative tax policies at work. These states each experienced strong population growth according to 2020 Census data and are enjoying robust economies. This is what happens when residents have more money in their pockets to spend as they see fit.

Thanks in large part to the committed leadership of northern Kentucky delegates in the Kentucky General Assembly, a historic announcement was made this past week that the Brent Spence Bridge mega-project will receive $1.6 billion in federal grant funds for its completion in 2029. Ground will be broken on the project later this year and construction will start in 2024.

The most amazing thing about this announcement is the bridge will be completed without Kentucky residents bearing the full burden of its cost through tolls. I have personally opposed tolls and am proud we have accomplished what many said could not be done: a new companion bridge built completely toll-free. The effort was decades in the making and the result will be a game-changer.