Letter to the Editor: A response from Rep. Dotson regarding HB 687

Published 4:45 pm Monday, March 25, 2024

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To whom it may concern,

In light of the recent comments by Mayor Reed in a city council meeting on March 19 concerning a bill that I sponsored, HB 687, I feel that I need to correct some very misleading statements and talk about the issue itself.

As many know, our county jail is a financial burden. This is not unusual, most county jails are struggling financially, except for a couple that house a significant number of federal inmates. Our county jailers manage to the very best of their ability. However, at the end of the day, the jail loses huge amounts of money, which in turn creates a huge $2 million vacuum on our county budget. With an annual budget of approximately $11 million, that means that just under 20% of the entire Clark County budget goes towards housing inmates. Mind you, the county’s budget takes care of county roads, county fire departments, county sheriff’s department and other services.

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The county budget is pushed to its max to cover all its expenses, while the city’s annual budget is almost double the county’s budget at $21 million. The city has more revenue authority and the ability to annex county land as they see fit. With that said, I proposed HB 687 with a committee substitute that simply states if a city resident is placed in the county jail, the city would pay 40% of the incarceration costs while the county still carries 60% of that burden, which I feel is more than fair.

I filed this bill late in the session and thought it may not get heard or taken up, but to my surprise, there was a ton of interest from other representatives and senators because it provides a real solution to a major problem. We have studied the jail issue for several years, including a task force that met for four years. Despite the efforts, the state still faces a major problem with a stalemate on any solutions. This was the first real solution other than the state taking over the county jails.

This was the reasoning behind the legislation. Of course, cities across the state screamed loud about this, along with the Kentucky League of Cities, which lobbies for city interests across the state. No one wants their money messed with, but at the end of the day, these are taxpayers’ funds!

The first misleading statement I would like to address is that this bill is “soft on crime.” Not true! If this were a true statement, the state Fraternal Order of Police would have jumped all over it and publicly opposed it, and they have not. The only way this would be soft on crime is if our police force was instructed not to arrest people for certain crimes based on the city paying 40%. That is never a reason not to arrest anyone.

The second misleading statement is that the bill is “double taxation.” Again, not true! Yes, everyone in the county pays county property taxes, but the city collects much more tax revenue streams than the county. No one’s taxes would rise as a result, but the city would have to budget for the jail.

I love the city of Winchester and my Clark County home, but as a legislator, I have an obligation to try and fix issues that are before us. I cannot pick and choose city over county or county over city. I have to do what is best for the betterment of our community and the state as a whole. 

I have always had a great relationship with Mayor Reed and many members of the city council. I have worked on many projects alongside them and will continue to do so, but on this issue, we disagree.

Mayor Reed and other council members have my personal cell number and could have called and spoken to me directly at any time, but I have not received a call or text.

I am in current talks with leadership as [to] how best to proceed and use this bill to fuel talks about fixing a huge [sic] county problem instead of kicking it down the road year after year. It is my great pleasure to serve you.


State Rep. Ryan Dotson