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Trimming Kentucky's $10 Billion In Tax Breaks? It's Complicated.

A Kentucky lawmaker is pushing for a review of the state's $10 billion in tax incentives, but he warns it's easier said than done.

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Credit Josh James / WUKY
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Of the $20 billion the state could potentially reap in annual tax revenue, Rep. Jason Petrie estimates roughly half is exempted out through "tax expenditures." In House Bill 402, up for discussion in committee Tuesday, the Republican said he hoped to start a discussion by identifying "zero impact" expenditures and repealing them.

But even that, he says, is complicated.

"A lot of these expenditures, which number in the hundreds... there are many legislators I've spoken with and other stakeholders that can't even tell you why a particular expenditure is there now," Petrie says. Add to that an uncertainty "about the data that determines what the fiscal impact actually is."

In 2017, Gov. Matt Bevin called on the legislature to reexamine "sacred cows" in the tax system and set about eliminating outdated tax breaks. But Petrie says that work still lies ahead, and he favors the formation of an oversight board that would perform deep dives on the tax breaks and judge whether they're performing.

Petrie's bill was not voted on in committee, but he's vowing to keep the pressure on in 2020 and beyond.

Copyright 2019 WUKY

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now known as Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and Program Director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.