The 2018 candidate filing deadline has come and gone. There are a record number of new faces seeking public office for the first time, and not just statewide, but locally as well. I am encouraged that many local residents like myself are standing up on the right and the left to serve their community.
This should stand as a warning to all career politicians in our community. While I won’t single out anyone specifically, it’s obvious that our representatives have not had our best interest at heart. The same old names have been running this community for years. They simply jump from one position to the next. This is not just a Republican or Democrat feeling. This is a feeling that many of us in our local community have felt.
It’s easy to divide Franklin County on a partisan level, but instead of complaining about the wedge issues that keep us apart, we should focus on what our community needs: economic growth.
Frankfort is a very unique state capital being the fourth smallest state capital in the nation. State government is our largest employer, but state government can also hinder growth as well. These are issues I would like to tackle at the state level. I’ve been watching as our population has remained stable, our housing market remained stagnant, and property taxes have risen far above surrounding county tax rates. Our state and local issues do work in tandem with each other.
What can be done? Well, first and foremost is demand more from the state government for the “in lieu of tax” payment we receive due to tax-exempt state property. Frankfort receives $195,000 a year in lieu of property taxes in the state budget. This is honestly a slap in the face to all local residents. While we do enjoy the small offset of having occupational taxes from people who work here but don’t live here; the loss of property tax revenue significantly affects our community and especially the Frankfort Independent School system.
We should collect taxes on government-owned property not protected by the constitutional exemption. Yes, you read that right. Section 170 of the Kentucky Constitution says “there shall be exempt from taxation public property used for public purposes.” I don’t believe government-owned rental property, for example the shops at Fountain Place, meet this constitutional exemption as they no longer serve public purpose when rented. While this might not do much for us now, as we are losing those shops, this does happen in other areas of the state as well.
I wouldn’t immediately demand the state to begin paying property taxes on those properties, but, rather I would urge them strongly to sell. Our government does not need to be in the rental property business and honestly our cash-strapped state cannot afford any more expenditures at the moment. I would also press the state government to sell some of the vacant and unused land they own here in Franklin County. If they haven’t found a purpose for it yet, why not release it for development? The good news is, according to KRS 42.205 “the net proceeds from the sale of real property owned by the Commonwealth or any agency thereof” is to be deposited into the permanent pension fund.
While these are just a few of my ideas, there are plenty more I can’t put in one article. It seems to me that these options have always been there, but local officials and state representatives look over them to press their own agendas far too often. It’s time for change and that only happens by electing individuals with fresh ideas and different perspectives. We cannot expect the leadership that has gotten us into this position to get us out. Repeating the same mistakes over and over again while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
The same holds true when we continue to elect ineffective representatives to be our voice.
Calen Studler is a Republican candidate for District 57 state representative.