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Budget cuts, illegal immigration and Medicaid... Oh my.
Those were just a few of the topics discussed during the Jan. 29th legislative forum hosted by Marion County Farm Bureau.
U.S. Congressman Brett Guthrie, State Sen. Jimmy Higdon and State Rep. Terry Mills were all in attendance, along with a room full of farmers, local officials and Marion County citizens.
Guthrie said the government plans to cut back to 2008 levels this year, which will include a $60 billion cut in current spending. Cutting back is a must to get the country back on a "path to fiscal sanity," he said.
According to Guthrie, the government is expected to hit the $14 trillion "debt ceiling" by April or May. While the government has to learn to live within its means, he compared the situation to parents who have children with serious credit card debt.
"We have to slow down the debt," Guthrie said.
Guthrie said he hoped President Obama's healthcare bill would be repealed, or at least parts of it, which was signed by the president last spring. A repeal effort passed the House, but soon after Guthrie's recent visit in Marion County, the U.S. Senate rejected Republican-led efforts to repeal the health care reform legislation. One provision of the health care bill, however, was repealed. A tax provision that would require businesses to file tax forms for any employee paid over $600 in goods or merchandise was repealed.
Another topic Guthrie discussed, which he has talked about in the past, is the inheritance tax, which could affect many farmers and their families. Basically, if parents leave their farm to their children when they die, the children would be required to pay taxes on it. According to Guthrie, the average Kentucky farm is worth $2.3 million. The share of estates that would owe taxes has been estimated to increase to about 2.5 percent of all estates. It is estimated that as many as one out of every 10 farm estates will owe estate tax this year.
Another concern for Guthrie is Medicare and Medicaid. Medicaid is a federally and state-funded healthcare program for the needy and Medicare is a federally administered system of health insurance available to persons age 65 and over. According to Guthrie, the amount of spending on these programs is going to have to be addressed.
"The federal government spends $45 million a year on cab fare to drive people to and from a doctor's office," he said.
In regards to healthcare, Sen. Higdon said Senate Bill 45 is one he is keeping his eyes on. The controversial bill would require a doctor's prescription to buy cold and allergy medicines containing ingredients used to make methamphetamines.
While Higdon believes this measure could help lower the number of meth labs in Kentucky, it could also make a drug, such as Sudafed, more expensive for the average consumer.
State Rep. Terry Mills said he hasn't made his mind up on SB 45 yet.
"Drug companies make a lot on this drug. I'm skeptical when profit could be the motive," Mills said. "I don't want to be a part of any type of legislation that increases the cost of healthcare."
Another piece of legislation that has created a great deal of discussion is Senate Bill 6, which includes provisions to authorize police to attempt to determine a person's immigration status if he or she is stopped for another reason, such as a traffic violation and is suspected of being an "unauthorized alien."
"There is an issue with illegal immigrants. Something needs to be done," Higdon said.
Some say the bill is tougher than a similar Arizona immigration law.
"We're not Arizona, which has half a million immigrants, and the bill is very similar to Arizona's bill," Mills said. "Kentucky has approximately 50,000 immigrants."
But, it's at least a start to dealing with the problem, Mills said.
"It's a good signal to send and a good discussion to start," he said. "The bigger issue, we need to do something nationally."