Tax plan proposal politics will harm higher education

Something is rotten in the state of Kentucky.

In January, Gov. Ernie Fletcher passed his state budget proposal for 2004-2006. Although this budget provided little new money for higher education, there would be money available toward capital projects.

Now, months later, there has been talk about dropping capital projects funding if a tax modernization plan is eliminated.

This is a questionable proposal. Tax modernization has nothing to do with the budget. There is no money to be gained or lost under this plan, so why are some in Frankfort saying that capital projects funding is contingent upon whether the Kentucky legislature approves this plan?

Having capital projects funds wasn’t an issue a few months ago. But now the issue of a tax modernization plan – which only entered into the picture recently – is the center of a partisan fight between the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans.

Unfortunately, all these recent events have required higher education to enter this battle of politics. But what’s even worse is that this battle might leave higher education wounded.

If capital projects funding is suspended because a tax modernization plan is not approved, Western could lose $56 million. This includes $27 million for the renovation of Western’s science building and $2.5 million to create the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science. This loss would also include authorization for Western to issue university-funded bonds, meaning another $4 million for the Kentucky Academy for Math and Science, $4 million for the building of a new health center, $7.5 million for an expansion of the south campus and $11 million to finish phase three of the Downing University Center renovation.

Let’s not forget that the state has failed to fund Western by more than $25 million in funds as a reward for reaching enrollment growth goals. Or that Western has had little new operating funding since 1998.

Western can only do so much to help maintain quality. The state has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure Kentuckians will be able to get a quality college education. In return, those same people are to help the state with the skills they obtained in college.

Sure, it’s hard to come to an agreement about some things. But it’s fair to say that whatever the political party, no one can dispute that it’s wrong to harm higher education – the very thing that they said will help improve the state’s economy and quality of life.

But that is exactly what legislators in Frankfort will do if they let this political battle go on.

Legislators, before you argue about whether or not to pass a tax modernization plan and before you decide whether or not capital projects funds are dispensable in this budget, think of the big picture:

Is this tax modernization issue going to matter when your kids, grandkids and great-grandkids will have to attend college in shoddy buildings?

Will it matter when they will get a less-than-ideal college education?

Will it matter when they will decide to leave Kentucky so they can go to a better school out-of-state?

Will it matter when they stay out-of-state and boost that state’s economy, leaving Kentucky’s at a standstill?

With that perspective, it makes this political battle pointless and petty when all you’re doing is hurting the state’s most important economic vehicle.

Future college students.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 9-member board of student editors.