Sen. Chris McDaniel talks cybersecurity, income tax, state’s future with Kenton County mayors | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

Kentucky Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights), whose district includes much of Kenton County and who chairs the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee, spoke to the Kenton County Mayors Group in Lakeside Park on Saturday, where he discussed not only the results of the most recent legislative session but also the issues he wanted to focus on in the future.

McDaniel began by discussing his career working with the state’s budget as well as reviewing some of the appropriations that arose from this year’s session. By McDaniel’s telling, this year was the first time in a long time that the legislature’s been able to focus on investments without having to worry about unpredictable situations like COVID.

“This is my first budget session where we didn’t have to deal with either a true societal anomaly in COVID or some really bad financial situations,” McDaniel said. “And so the the conservative nature of what we’ve been doing, the way we’ve been saving, the way we’ve been not spending led us to a point where we can make some pretty tremendous investments.”

Kentucky Sen. Chris McDaniel (R-Ryland Heights) at the Kenton County Mayors Group meeting on May 18, 2024. Photo by Nathan Granger | LINK nky

McDaniel discussed some of the big projects from the session, most notably funding for the new Center for Biomedical Excellence in Covington, which will see the relocation of NKU’s Chase College of Law and a branch of the University of Kentucky College of Medicine to Covington, and a $400 million appropriation into the road fund (read a summary of what was passed in Frankfort this year by reading LINK nky’s 2024 session recap).

Toward the end of his initial statement, McDaniel said that the state’s newfound financial stability could soon allow for an income tax reduction, barring unforeseen circumstances.

“We’re anticipating that unless there’s a really really really odd thing happening this next month, we will meet the conditions to be able to vote on lowering the income tax rate down to 3.5%,” McDaniel said.

Such a vote would take place in January of 2025 and the rate would begin in 2026. The current Kentucky income tax rate for individual residents is 4.5%.

Kenton County Judge/Executive Kris Knochelmann, like many in attendance, was thankful of McDaniel’s efforts, describing the appropriations from this year as an “unprecedented investment in Northern Kentucky.”

Knochelmann then asked what McDaniel hoped to accomplish for Kentucky moving forward, and this led to a discussion of the region’s future and the issues on the attendees’ minds.

One issue was at the top of McDaniel’s list: cybersecurity. From his point of view, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for the issue among the leadership class in Kentucky or throughout the United States.

“I continue to think that we are woefully neglecting the idea of cybersecurity nationwide,” McDaniel said. “This is not unique to Northern Kentucky or Kentucky.”

He worried that it would take some kind of major cybersecurity attack on critical infrastructure, what he described as a kind of “9/11 moment,” before leaders would respond.

“I think there will be an event somewhere that will make us realize how far behind we really are,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel also argued that overall economic conditions in the state east of I-75 were continuing to decline, something that had spill over effects locally. Specifically, he was concerned about how it affected state education funding mandates as districts’ allocations are determined (in part) by local property valuations. All of the money comes from the same pot, though, so if one district’s state funding amount goes up, others will inevitably go down to make the math work. Increasing overall economic prosperity, he argued, would ease strain between regions.

“We’re going to continue to have this constitutional mandate for common system education, and so what do we do to try to raise the tide over there a bit?” McDaniel asked rhetorically.

In regards to the possible income tax reduction, Edgewood Mayor John Link asked, “How are we going to make it up in the state, the difference of what the loss is going to be?”

McDaniel said that with the current growth in the state, additional measures probably wouldn’t be necessary.

“I’m not concerned at the 3.5% level that we’ll have to do anything else,” McDaniel said.

Lakeside Park Mayor Paul Markgraf expressed concern about the condition of Kentucky’s state parks, which he claimed were in poor condition, to the point that it could even affect the local tourism industry.

“We’ve got people coming in to do the Bourbon Trail and everyone coming in with all of the new construction projects, manufacturing facilities,” Markgraf said. “We’d like them to spend their recreation budgets here, as well. I think, unless we get some kind of an upgrade there, they may be heading down to Florida when there’s no hurricane.”

McDaniel said that interest in forging public-private partnerships to improve the state parks has been difficult to generate.

“There’s not the cash flow at the parks to make it worth their investment,” McDaniel said.

Still, he said, the state appropriated several hundred million dollars–he didn’t give an exact figure–to the state parks last year. The process of releasing that money stalled in the planning stages, but this year the legislature was able to release the money.

“We released the balance of the funds to the state parks to do a lot of very necessary upgrades,” McDaniel said.

Knochelmann wanted to know about road projects in the county.

McDaniel said that due to the loss of former state Rep. Sal Santoro (R-Union), who chaired the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation, it was much harder to advocate for transportation in the region today, although he qualified that by saying much of the local leadership in Kenton County had developed a good relationship with Secretary Jim Gray, who currently heads the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

At the end of his statement, McDaniel encouraged the attendees to reach out to him with any questions or requests in the future.

“I appreciate our partnership greatly,” McDaniel said.

The next meeting of the Kenton County Mayors Group will take place on Saturday, June 15 at 9 a.m. at the Erlanger City Building on Commonwealth Avenue.


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