The right to vote. It is fundamental to us as Americans and as Kentuckians. Most often, we exercise it by electing our representatives, who then pass laws that govern our commonwealth and our country.
Sometimes, though, an issue demands that the voters of Kentucky have more direct input. When a new law would require a change in Kentucky’s Constitution, that decision must be put directly in the hands of Kentucky voters. Often, these are decisions that have such pivotal impact that they should be decided by the majority of Kentuckians — not just a majority of their representatives.
That is the situation we face as we try to recapture some of the gaming dollars — Kentucky dollars — that are leaving our state by the truckload. If Kentuckians are going to spend that kind of money on entertainment, let’s spend it and tax it at home.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue are leaving our state as thousands of Kentuckians drive to Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and elsewhere to spend their entertainment dollars on gaming. Kentucky money is funding early childhood education, schools, libraries, police officers, roads and bridges in our neighboring states. It makes no sense to continue watching that happen.
Furthermore, one of Kentucky’s signature industries — our equine industry — is losing stature as other states use gaming earnings to boost purses and breeders’ incentives. They’re luring race horses, broodmares and stallions away from the Horse Capital of the World, as well as the jobs that go with them. We can — and must — reverse that trend.
That is why I, along with many of our legislators from both political parties, propose to give the voters of Kentucky the opportunity to allow similar types of expanded gaming in our commonwealth and keep that money inside our borders.
This week, Sen. Damon Thayer and I introduced a constitutional amendment in the state Senate that would allow you — the residents of this state — the opportunity to decide if our state should reap the benefits of expanded gaming in Kentucky. This bill is co-sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats in the Senate.
A change to Kentucky’s Constitution would require the approval of an amendment during the next general election, in November. Before that vote can happen, your senators and representatives in Frankfort will have to decide to put it on the ballot. Only then do you get to exercise your right and make your voice heard on how we chart the future in Kentucky.
The proposed biennial budget is bleak, thanks to a sagging national economy and slow-to-recover state revenues. All the big cost-saving measures have been taken. Deep and painful cuts are being made across state government.
Even critical areas like education will see some reductions, though not as much as most state services. Agencies and services will be cut to the bone.
We are running a real risk of taking steps backward in multiple areas — education, public protection, job creation — and until our state generates more revenue, we will always fall behind. It’s simply time for us to decide where we want to go as a state. We can muddle along, and we can keep our heads just above water. But is just getting by enough for our families, for our children or for our future? We don’t think so.
If we want to attack the fundamental weaknesses that have held our state back for generations, it has to begin with more revenue. We can step out and really attack these persistent weaknesses, such as education, health and job training. We can do it by getting expanded gaming on the ballot and letting people vote on it this November.
We’ve all heard arguments for or against allowing expanded gaming in Kentucky. But what we haven’t heard is one single reason Kentuckians shouldn’t be allowed to vote on it and make the decision themselves.
Those elected officials who disagree with expanded gaming should not deny their fellow citizens the right to vote on the issue. Kentuckians deserve the opportunity to cast their ballots and have their votes counted on this important question.
We want to hear your voices on this issue in November.