Week 1 of the 2024 Legislative Session

As we convene the 2024 regular session, I would like first to wish you a happy new year. I hope your holidays were filled with joy and laughter while spending quality time with family and friends.

Standing in the Senate chamber for the first day of the 2024 Legislative Session and each proceeding day, I have occasionally paused to take in everything around me. As Senate Majority Floor Leader, one of my responsibilities is to be alert to all the ongoings within the chamber. Still, in our first week back in Frankfort, I have been even more aware because of my recent announcement that this session will be my final session. As my term concludes in December, I knew the first day of the session was my last first day, and the same is true for each day after that. The further away I get from my announcement not to seek re-election, I grow more and more comfortable with the decision, but I will undoubtedly miss the unique role I feel so blessed to serve in. I will make the most of my remaining time as your state senator, and I’ll begin by setting the stage for what is to come in the remaining 56 days of the 2024 Legislative Session.

The Senate convened for day one on Tuesday, January 2, with incredible renditions of our national anthem and “My Old Kentucky Home” by the 100th Army Band, Fort Knox.

Legislative sessions in even-numbered years are budget sessions, consisting of 60 legislative days, unlike the shorter 30-day session in odd-numbered years. Short session years are intended to evaluate previously enacted policies and address any necessary legislative clean-up. As the Constitution of Kentucky outlines, the General Assembly must gavel into session on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in January and requires lawmakers to conclude legislative business on April 15.

The primary focus in the Senate on week one was to pass this year’s Senate rules, officially confirm committee assignments, and introduce initial legislation. In adopting the membership of the Senate, we formally welcomed our newest member to the chamber, Senator Greg Elkins, who represents Senate District 28, the district formerly represented by my good friend Ralph Alvarado. The counties that comprise the 28th district are in capable hands with Senator Elkins. He and I both represent portions of Fayette County, and I look forward to watching him learn and grow as a member of our citizen legislature.

The only two items constitutionally required by the General Assembly in this year’s legislative session are to enact a new two-year state budget and road plan.

The Kentucky Constitution vests the exclusive power and duty to tax and spend the public’s money to the General Assembly. Our state constitution requires balanced spending with available financial resources, which is good. While the federal government can borrow and incur trillions of dollars in debt, this is not an option for our state government. The tax dollars you entrust to your government must be spent with care and discipline, and that is my intent as your state senator and as Senate Majority Floor Leader. Our Senate Budget Chair Chris McDaniel and I represent portions of Kenton County, and I assure you his philosophy in this budget session centers on fiscal discipline.

The total amount of taxpayer funding for the next two-year budget and road plan will be based on what was recently set by the Consensus Forecasting Group. According to this group of economic experts’ best estimates, total general fund revenues—which result from sales, income and other taxes—are approximately $31.6 billion over the 2025-2026 biennium, with road fund revenues resulting from gas and motor vehicle taxes are roughly $3.7 billion. The state budget provides for state government operations and essential government services, and the road plans provide for investments in our roads, bridges, and highways.

The state Senate will have the final crack at proposing a state budget and road plan. Our fingerprint will not be applied to the document until a proposal is passed out of the state House of Representatives. I will keep you updated throughout this critical process and will remain an advocate for our district. In the previous state budget, I secured $75 million for the tourism industry, ultimately leading to millions benefiting tourism organizations and attractions right here in the 17th Senate District. Similarly, I helped secure funding for vital road improvement projects in Scott, Grant, Kenton and Fayette Counties. This theme will continue as we craft the next two-year state budget and road plan.

On January 1, the second automatic reduction of our state income tax went into effect. House Bill (HB) 8 from the 2022 Legislative Session established the framework by which working Kentuckians’ income tax could be decreased responsibly. During the 2023 Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed HB 1 and codified the first two tax reductions after HB 8’s criteria were met. The January 1 income tax reduction lowers your income tax rate from 4.5 percent to 4 percent. By the end of 2024, HB 8 and the resulting individual income tax reductions will have resulted in approximately $1.8 billion left in the pockets of taxpayers and consumers, providing you more of your own money to spend as you wish.

While the state budget and road plan will be our primary responsibility this session, there are many vital policy items to take care of. Whether mundane or headline-worthy, each proposed measure will receive the debate and deliberation required by the legislative process.

In closing, I will be on air with Larry Glover each Friday afternoon from 2-3 p.m. EST for the Larry Glover Live program on WVLK 590 AM/97.3 FM. I will provide a weekly update on legislative activity and share my general perspective on the happenings in Frankfort. You can tune in live on the radio or online at wvlkam.com.

Feel free to share your thoughts throughout the session. Find the status of legislation by calling 866-840-2835, legislative meeting information at 800-633-9650, or leaving a message for lawmakers at 800-372-7181. You can watch and follow legislative activity at KET/org/legislature and Legislature.ky.gov.

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Senator Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, represents the 17th Senate District, including Grant and Scott Counties, southern Kenton County, and northwestern Fayette County. He is Senate Majority Floor Leader. Thayer is the longest-serving Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader in Kentucky history. He serves as a member of the Senate committees on Agriculture, Licensing and Occupations, and State and Local Government. As Senate majority floor leader, Thayer is a member of the Legislative Research Commission, the Committee on Committees and the Rules Committee. Additionally, he is a member of the Administrative Regulation Review Subcommittee.

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