Kentucky Lawmakers Override Governor Veto on Tax, Budget Bills

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Kentucky lawmakers on Friday overrode Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes of tax and budget bills that boost spending on public education with the help of additional tax revenue, in a victory for teachers.

As they have several times this year, hundreds of Kentucky teachers descended on Frankfort, the capital, on Friday to urge lawmakers to override the governor’s vetoes. Some demonstrated inside the state Capitol, while others chanted “Fund our schools” outside.

The demonstration was the latest by teachers around the U.S. demanding increased education funding and higher pay. Teachers in Oklahoma just ended a nine-day strike that yielded such results, and educators in Arizona are now weighing a walkout.

Supporters of the overrides said the tax bill would make the state more competitive, drawing new companies and creating more jobs. “We then create more taxpayers, with more money going into the coffers to pay for things like education,” said Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer on the Senate floor Friday.

In Kentucky earlier this month, the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate passed a tax measure that lowered income taxes for most people and businesses, added sales taxes for certain services and raised the cigarette tax, generating an additional $480 million in revenue. The chambers also passed a two-year budget bill that relied on that extra money to increase classroom funding and help shore up the state’s pension systems.

On Monday, Mr. Bevin, a Republican, vetoed both measures, saying lawmakers overestimated how much revenue the tax bill would generate and passed a budget with spending the state can’t afford. If lawmakers had failed to override the vetoes, the governor would have had to call a special legislative session later this year to craft a new budget measure.

On Friday afternoon, the House overrode Mr. Bevin’s veto of the tax bill in a 57-40 vote, then overrode his veto of the budget bill in a 66-28 vote. The Senate followed by overriding the tax measure 20-18 and the budget measure 26-12.

Many Democrats voted to support the vetoes—not for the reasons Mr. Bevin offered, but because they considered the tax measure overly generous to businesses and punitive for lower-income workers. “It’s on the backs of people who can least afford to pay,” said Democratic state Sen. Robin Webb during debate Friday.

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