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'Transformational' or a 'reckless' spending spree? A Kentucky economic think tank and the state's leading Republican take on Democrats' latest legislation

Godofredo A. Vásquez/AP
An electric vehicle is charging at a shopping center in Emeryville, Calif., Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. Congress is poised to pass a transformative climate change bill on Friday, Aug. 12. The crux of the long-delayed bill is to use incentives to accelerate the expansion of clean energy such as wind and solar power, speeding the transition away from the oil, coal and gas that largely cause climate change. (AP Photo/Godofredo A. Vásquez)

Analysts with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy say Kentucky will be one of the states seeing a definite impact from the massive climate, health, and tax bill expected to hit the president’s desk soon.

There’s a lot to unpack in the Democrats’ sweeping $750 billion Inflation Reduction Act, but a number of provisions will bear directly on Kentucky.

"The Inflation Reduction Act really is a transformational piece of legislation that is going to be really important for Kentucky especially, but certainly across the nation."
Dustin Pugel, Senior Policy Analyst with the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Dustin Pugel is with the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy. He says the first piece of the bill — likely to be felt by thousands of Kentuckians — will be the extension of subsidies for those receiving their health coverage through the health insurance exchange. Without them, Pugel says many would have seen substantial premium increases.

The U.S. Department for Health and Human Services <a label="estimated" class="rte2-style-brightspot-core-link-LinkRichTextElement" href="https://aspe.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1647ad29528ee85a48d6ffa9e7bfbc8f/arp-ptc-sunset-impacts-03-22-22%20Final.pdf">estimated</a> that if such an extension did not occur, 15,000 Kentuckians would have become uninsured, and 8,000 more would have kept their insurance but paid the full premium amount.
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy

Other elements of the bill aimed at combating climate change, in part by incentivizing the purchase of cleaner energy including electric vehicles, could affect the state in a number of ways.

"I think that's especially pertinent to Kentucky, not only because of the recent natural disasters that are surely in some way to climate, but also because we have a lot of jobs coming to Kentucky related to electric vehicles in particular in Warren and Hardin counties," he notes. "So this really sort of solidifies that industry and will maintain those businesses in our state for a long time."

It’s a list of priorities Kentucky’s senator, Mitch McConnell, claims are out-of-step with the country’s biggest concerns, things like crime and the border, according to the Republican leader. Skeptical the bill will do much for inflation, McConnell also warned of "giant job-killing tax hikes," referencing new requirements that corporations making $1 billion or more in annual profits pay at least 15% of those profits in taxes.

But Democrats say it’s a forward-thinking bill that boasts a number of firsts, including granting Medicare the power to negotiate some prescription drug prices.

Read the full Kentucky Center for Economic Policy report.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.