Wednesday, April 30, 2008

How long before Beshear taxes Big Macs?

Since Governor Steve Beshear got his last big idea from Atlantic City, it is reasonable to guess that his next one may come from there as well.

That's right, New Jersey wants to tax fast food to save hospitals. Rather than cut spending or change policies that keep costs artificially high, Kentucky may be headed in the same direction soon.

Chandler/Obama on gas prices

Or is it Obama/Chandler?

Kentucky Right to Life endorsements

The Kentucky Right to Life endorsements are out.

And here is an interesting video:

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Who will bite Leach first?

The Fayette County Detention Center's mail-order Doctor Don Leach is the subject of a new City of Lexington investigation into his "consulting" activities. At issue is Leach's alleged use of city property in his personal business and whether the city or the feds will press charges against him simultaneously or if one or the other will wait.

What happens when a Dem stays in D.C. too long

WKYT's Bill Bryant is suggesting Congressman Ben Chandler is going to endorse Barack Obama for President today in Louisville.

PageOne has details. Stay tuned here for the YouTube video.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Does anybody really know what time it is?

According to the Kentucky Constitution, the General Assembly had to adjourn by midnight on April 15. They did not do so.

According to the Kentucky Constitution, Governor Steve Beshear has ten days from adjournment to veto bills. In the case of HB 79 today he either did or did not do this on time.

Can't help thinking that if lawmakers didn't sit on their hands the first month of the session, this probably wouldn't be an issue.

Jack Conway gripes and swipes; Goettl responds

Attorney General Jack Conway never complains when he gets his customary kid-glove treatment from the mainstream media. But as soon as a less-than-glowing description emerges, the claws come out:
But while I appreciate the attention to the issue, I am disappointed that neither I nor my office was contacted to respond to false allegations contained in the article.

It quotes Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl, the owner and operator of a conservative blog, who implies that the reduction in prosecutors' budgets was due, in part, to my lack of attention to this matter with legislators.

You may read Conway's entire whinefest here.

What appears below is Goettl's response to Conway, which the Herald-Leader now refuses to print:

In response to AG Conway’s recent guest opinion in the April 28th, 2008 Lexington Herald-Leader, let me provide your readers with some facts regarding the budget process, and why I vocalized my criticism of General Conway. On March 11th, Assistant Attorney General Janet Graham sent out the following e-mail:

Hi folks, we have representatives from the County Attorneys Association and the Commonwealth's Attorneys Association up here in Frankfort today advocating on your behalf for your budget. We have been meeting with members of the Senate to stress our budget concerns. The uniform message that is coming back to us is that we need to get a meeting with Senator Williams and Senator Stivers. If any of you believe that you can assist us in getting these meetings, please give me a call at (502) 696-5641.

The e-mail was entitled “Help with the budget please”. After receiving the e-mail, I arranged for a meeting with Senator Stivers and Senator Borders through my association with Becky Harrelson, chief of staff to Senate President David Williams. Ms. Graham acknowledged as much with the following e-mail:

Thank everyone for all of your help on this - we now have a meeting with Senator Stivers regarding the budget, so all of your calls and emails certainly helped. Much praise should be directed to Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl for his efforts to get us this meeting. If you see him, give him a big pat on the back.

General Conway did not attend that meeting. I, along with Mke Foster, Janet Graham, Chirs Cohron and members of the PAC budget staff did attend. In a subsequent PAC meeting, General Conway implied that he did not have much sway with Senate Republicans.

I suggested that a public relations campaign be conducted in much the same manner as the Department of Public Advocacy had done concering their budget. The prosecutors present at that meeting were in unanimous agreement with my suggestion.

As a result, General Conway did say that he would assign his deputy press secretary to that task, but asked Commonwealth Attorney Chris Cohron to work with the deputy press secretary, instead of himself. My opinion is that there would have been a better press response if General Conway had held a press conference and spoken directly to the press about the budget situation.

Considering that prosecutors did not receive any media coverage about the budget short fall following that PAC meeting, until after the budget had been set, I feel that I was right.

There is no doubt that General Conway did a great job with the budget when dealing with House Democrats. As well, his PAC budget people and Assistant Attorney General Janet Graham did an outstanding job throughout the entire process.

And, the reality is, General Conway may not have had much sway with Senate Republicans. But, he failed to take advantage of the few opportunities he did have with the Senate. I criticized him for that failure. His implications otherwise are false.


Brian T. Goettl

Jessamine County Attorney

Fayette Jail story just got harder to ignore

Fayette County Detention Center Sgt. John McQueen has been placed on administrative leave for his role in the prisoner beatings scandal at the facility.

McQueen came under increased scrutiny after questioning last week by FBI agents.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blast from the past

Remember blogger Mark Nickolas? Congressman Ben Chandler's campaign manager is now busily making enemies of Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Congressman Chandler, what say you?

Cry me a revenue stream

A new report on state budgets coming up short has elicited at least a couple of skeptical responses (here and here) to the suggestion that what we really need is a tax increase or some other new way to feed the monster.

Check the mainstream media over the weekend for the standard point-of-view.

Why we need blogs

I don't think Mitch McConnell needs my help beating whichever opponent he winds up getting in the fall. For the same reason, I didn't pay much attention to the political opposition to or media coverage of his latest television commercial.

Fortunately, Elephants in the Blue Grass is on the case. I appreciate the effort and will be paying closer attention to this blog now.

Start limiting pension abuse in Kentucky

In a sane world, the retirement of Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert would start a debate about cutting back on the outlandish pension benefits some public employees get.

For their part, New Jersey is looking a plan to cut back on giving state pensions for everyone who walks by a government office. Kentucky should, at the very least, look at getting rid of pensions for part-time workers.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Thanks unions: Volkswagen not considering KY

Here's one for the good folks who are trying to unionize Toyota:
"It really comes down to how much the states want it and how much they're willing to pay," Peterson said, referring to potential tax incentives. "The risk of unionization is very low in Tennessee and Alabama, and Volkswagen doesn't want to work with unions if it can avoid it."

This is what they were talking about when the right-to-work people said Kentucky had to get off the no-call list.

Instead of moving in the right direction, our government is in a big hurry to elevate the big unions in Kentucky.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Use transparency to end welfare abuse

The government transparency movement caught fire when Republican U.S. Senator Tom Coburn and Democratic U.S. Senator Barack Obama worked together to put some federal expenditures online.

As with most very good ideas, this one hasn't yet awakened Kentucky's legislative leaders, despite their promises.

Let's require recipients of all forms of welfare including Section 8, food stamps, EITC, and Medicaid to be posted on the internet. Those figures have to be written down and reported anyway. Just make the reporting electronic and let the public see the data. People would think twice about welfare fraud if they knew the neighbors were watching.

Pick your poison Ben Chandler

Congressman Ben Chandler is getting some pressure to pick a side in the U.S. Senate Democratic primary. And now that former Congressman Ken Lucas has endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, it's easy to see why Rep. Chandler has gone into hiding.

Here is a screen capture of Chandler's press release page, showing he has done nothing to crow about in seven weeks:

Republican party's stupid tax ploy

If the latest fiscal policy idea from the McCain campaign is an indication of what lies ahead, the GOP nominee would do better to go back to watching from the sidelines as Hillary and Obama bleed each other dry. McCain's big plan is to go back into the old playbook and talk about suspending federal gas taxes for the summer.

If he thought about it, he would reject this idea for the same reason he opposed some of the Bush tax cuts: if this move doesn't correspond with spending cuts of an equal amount, then all we are doing is wasting our time on another expensive political stunt.

Not having much else to work with, the Republican National Committee doesn't see it that way. At least not according to this email:

I can't believe they are touting agreement by Hillary Clinton on a fiscal idea as a good thing. In fact, Clinton's response indicates only that she gets the political gamesmanship:
“I would also consider a gas tax holiday, if we could make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund,” she said, without specifying how to make up those lost revenues.

Republicans won't be rebuilding much public trust with this one.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Get used to hearing this

Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer has polling data indicating he could pretty much run for emperor in Kentucky and win, so he is sitting back and waiting for the opportune moment to announce he is running for governor in 2011.

Yes, that has purchased an ad on this site. They are asking their readers to pick the next Barack Obama ad for them to run on television.

It's to the right, just under the button you can use to donate to the Bluegrass Institute.

You know what to do...

A vote for fiscal sanity in Kentucky

Will Terwort, candidate in the 63rd House district GOP primary, will report raising over $32,000 so far in his contest against moderate Rep. Alecia Webb-Edgington.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The last man between us and President Obama

Hillary Clinton is just about done.

And John McCain is going to be on Leland Conway's radio show in Lexington Wednesday at 9:15 am. You can listen here and call in on 859-280-2287.

How to really underfund your big government

I thought it was pretty funny when Kentucky wanted to raise the cigarette tax to bring in more money for an ever-expanding number of overspending problems while also trying to get people to quit smoking.

Massachusetts is going to show our big spenders how it is done.

From the New York Times:
"To keep the state’s landmark universal health coverage plan afloat, Massachusetts lawmakers are looking to tap an increasingly popular source of financing for health-related initiatives: tobacco taxes.

If the state raises its tax by as much as $1 a pack, it will join New York — and possibly a number of other states — in enacting significant increases this year. The speaker of the Massachusetts House, Salvatore F. DiMasi, a Democrat, pushed the increase, to $2.51, through the chamber this month, and the State Senate president, Therese Murray, and Gov. Deval Patrick, also Democrats, have signaled support.

The $175 million in projected revenue would be used to shore up the state’s year-old mandatory health insurance plan. State officials say the plan, which is the first to require that individuals have coverage, is over budget because enrollment has been higher than expected for state-subsidized insurance policies offered to low- and middle-income workers.

The state subsidies were budgeted at $472 million for the first year but actually cost $625 million. Only months ago, Mr. Patrick proposed spending $869 million for the coming year, but his aides already acknowledge that will not be enough. The state recently agreed to increase its payments to insurers by 9.4 percent. More costs are being passed along to policyholders in the form of higher premiums and co-payments."

Let's hope this gives some of our slow learners pause before pushing again for socialized medicine in Kentucky.

Word association game: Clinton, intern

While the Ohio Democratic party is busily trying to nominate Hillary or Barack, you would be hard-pressed to find the names Clinton or Obama on the Kentucky Democratic Party site.

In fact I could only find the name "Clinton" once. It was in an essay written by Chairwoman Jennifer Moore recruiting young interns to serve the party in Frankfort. In the essay, she mentions that she served an internship in the White House. In the Clinton White House. In 1995.

Since you are wondering, 1995 was in fact the same year young Monica Lewinsky met Bill and Hill.

Taxpayers soaked -- and without pools!

I think we have had about enough of government officials cutting services while clinging to outlandish perks of office. The city of Louisville wants to close swimming pools rather than reduce the number of government employees driving home in expensive taxpayer-provided cars. A letter to the editor in today's Courier Journal lays out the details very nicely:

It's not that the purpose of government is to provide swimming pools. But given the choice, shouldn't we be cutting the fat around the bureaucrats before we cut something that benefits the public far more widely?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Possible VP candidate coming to Lexington

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, subject of recent speculation about his future as a vice presidential candidate on more than one ticket, is coming to Lexington Tuesday, April 29.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

"We had a deal"

Senator Damon Thayer lambasted House Speaker Jody Richards and Majority Caucus Chairman Charlie Hoffman tonight at Georgetown College for fumbling public employee benefit reform in the waning hours of the 2008 General Assembly:

The state faces a $26 billion shortfall in the accounts that fund state and local government employee and retiree benefits. Legislators appear to be headed back to Frankfort for a costly special session to address this failure.

FairTax Advancing

Kentucky's Sixth Congressional District Republican Party Convention just voted to support passage of the FairTax.

Delegate Don Strosberg of Frankfort attempted to have the resolution tabled on the grounds that it is "too complex." His motion failed on a voice vote.

Here is a video of the resolution:

Friday, April 18, 2008

Plugging Beshear for Veepstakes?

This is at least worth a laugh. I found one person who thinks Governor Steve Beshear is worthy of consideration as a potential candidate for Vice President.

Yes, of the United States.

Thanks to the folks at the Ballot Box Blog for making that one possible.

Meet Grover Norquist

One of the big-government types' favorite people to hate is coming to Kentucky in May. Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform will speak in Frankfort Tuesday, May 20 to a monthly gathering sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute.

If you ask nicely, I might let you come.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Beshear reiterates pension wisdom

The smartest thing Governor Steve Beshear has said yet about our $26 billion pension debacle is this:

"Not as accurate as I have been in the past?"

Watching Hillary Clinton try to turn her lie about Bosnia into a positive for her campaign last night was even more fun than watching her husband explain that the cigar was his.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Now let's have a repealing party

The ink is not yet dry on the last bills coming from the 2008 General Assembly and they are already talking about a special session to raise taxes, fix the pension mess, and other assorted items.

Two bills that should be repealed as part of the effort to clean up the $26 billion public employee benefits disaster are HB 470 from this year and HB 299 from 2005.

Both sides in Florida get cigarette tax increase

Governor Charlie Crist of Florida promised to kill a proposed cigarette tax increase. This is not a surprise, since Crist probably wants to keep his name on the VP short list.

But what is a surprise, perhaps, is that even the sponsor of the tax increase bill understands there are limits to what the tax can accomplish:
The proposed tax increase "is not something we dreamed up to try to balance the budget," Deutch told lawmakers. "It is something we introduced to try to save lives."

If approved, the bill's success would be marked by a drop in tax revenue, the result of fewer people smoking, Deutch said.

"That's what we want to happen," Deutch said. "We won't have an ongoing stream of revenue. We will see it shrink every year."

That's more than we can say for Kentucky's wild-eyed tax raisers.

Demand better educational opportunities now

Late last night, the Kentucky General Assembly made legitimate the state's illegal charter school. Now we must force them to allow this fine example of what school choice can be to be duplicated so we better serve the educational needs of our children.

The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science at Western Kentucky University was created in the 2006 budget with a $3.3 million appropriation, but no enabling legislation was passed to get around education laws prohibiting the kind of advanced training currently enjoyed by 120 high schoolers at WKU. Another $10 million in state money spruced up an old building on campus to house the new program.

Our current laws are set up to protect the status quo in the public schools. The Gatton Academy is an important leak in the dam. The tremendous opportunity presented to these few students involves spending tremendous resources. Now that we have agreed that the effort makes sense for some, we should do more to help those students who don't fit the public school mold bust out. With a little creativity, we could do so for much, much less money.

Ending Kentucky's old-fashioned prohibition of charter schools is the way to start this process.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Jerry Abramson tax tactics lose big

The General Assembly just completed an overwhelming smackdown on the Louisville Library Tax Increasers with a unanimous Senate vote.

A worthy Tax Day debate

Which is better, a flat tax or a national sales tax? Here's a good way of looking at it:

Monday, April 14, 2008

Grayson applauds death of gubernatorial runoff

Secretary of State Trey Grayson quickly sent out a press release approving a bill that could affect his next election.

The House this afternoon passed HB 370, which the Senate amended to include repeal of the gubernatorial runoff election. The bill now goes to Governor Steve Beshear, who is expected to sign it.

“Turnout in most runoff elections is abysmal which often leads parties to nominate a candidate with fewer votes than the top vote-getter in the original primary,” Grayson said. “This legislation is something that most, if not all, legislators agreed was bad public policy.”

Jason Mays comes out swinging

As the 2008 General Assembly session draws to a close, one of the biggest political questions for the upcoming elections is this: will Governor Steve Beshear go to Georgetown to try to save House Majority Caucus Chairman Charlie Hoffman?

Here is Hoffman's opponent Jason Mays:

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Jon Larson is a Republican candidate for Congress in Kentucky's sixth district. Tony McCurdy is his opponent in the May primary. The winner will face Rep. Ben Chandler in November.
This is Jon Larson:

And here is Tony McCurdy:

Any first impressions?

Forgy: battle against casinos not finished yet

Republican stalwart Larry Forgy spoke in Winchester Saturday night about John McCain and the War on Terror, tax increase efforts in Washington D.C. and Frankfort, and Governor Steve Beshear's ongoing campaign to bring casinos to Kentucky.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Still looking for government waste?

If you aren't happy with how the General Assembly did this year, you will be interested to know they messed up their opportunity to shut down the Treasurer's office.

What a waste.

They also could have changed the rule that allows lawmakers to sit around the first month of each election year doing nothing, waiting (on the clock, of course) for the filing deadline to pass.

Lexington jail Hydra grows another head

An internal city of Lexington investigation into on-the-clock business activities of Senior Administration officer Don Leach of the Fayette County Detention Center has attracted the attention of state law enforcement officials. Jail sources report substantial evidence of a link between Dr. Leach (well, sort of) and former Fayette county jailer Ray Sabbatine in a systematic misuse of city property for personal gain.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Counting, but not drowning

Grover Norquist is coming to Kentucky in May to speak to the Bluegrass Institute (oh, and the NRA, too) and The Lexington Herald Leader's Larry Dale Keeling is so upset about it he turned off his spell checker.

Actually, you can see from Keeling's post (if you click on it) he is talking about state government employment getting down below the legal limit, which can only be a good thing for the state. Norquist is indeed, as Keeling supposes, pleased.

Kentucky Votes becoming a serious political tool

The Kentucky Votes website now has a database of legislative bills and voting records going back to 2005. Readers can search by keywords, bill numbers, or legislator names.

Elections are coming up quickly. Happy hunting.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Can't believe we are still fighting this fight

Next week, Congress will take a big vote on taxes. It will be interesting to see how Rep. John Yarmuth and Rep. Ben Chandler play this one.

Jail officials spotted in Covington

Fayette County Detention Center administration officials Don Leach, Jim Kammer, Todd Eads, and Mary Hester are all discussing their future with federal authorities this morning.

Stay tuned for updates...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Anyone ready to cut fat at Lexington jail?

The city of Lexington is looking at ways to eliminate excess spending. Here's an idea: Ron Bishop, Don Leach, Jim Kammer, Todd Eads and Mary Hester are all administration officials at the Fayette County Detention Center earning more than $80,000. In addition to their fat salaries -- and given the disgraceful state of the jail -- is there really any reason they should also be driving around city-provided cars all the time?

And Ron Bishop drives his car home to Louisville every night. If you live in Lexington, you are paying for his gas.

Also can't help wondering how many city vehicles will be carrying these folks up to Covington Thursday to speak to the federal grand jury investigating their activities.

Why so squeamish, Governor Steve Beshear?

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear officially made his "no tax increase" campaign pledge a lie today when he signed into law HB 258, a corporate tax increase.

One funny thing about this, though: Beshear has already gone on the record championing tax increases and has even talked about calling a tax increase special session of the General Assembly. So why would he gloss over a tax increase victory today with this odd press release?

You will notice the headline touts four bills, but the press release only specifically names two. The two that rated only an oblique reference were HB 233 and HB 258.

House Bill 258 will, according to the fiscal note attached to the bill, raise $500,000 in new corporate taxes before June 30 and $4.7 million over the next biennium.

Count on Massachusetts to think of this first

Just when you thought Kentucky's time bomb of a public employee benefit program couldn't get any worse, you realize our workers aren't going to court to demand pension payments based on their government-provided cars, Blackberries, and computers -- yet.
"In fact, he argued, if the court rules that the use of a car is considered income (though it's not taxed as such), it would open the door to future retirees claiming pension increases based on their use of computers, or even for health benefits."

Our public employee benefits plans are currently $26 billion in the hole. Kentucky's two-year executive branch budget is $19 billion.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Are you a "stupid conservative?"

John David Dyche, a Republican, showed today why the Louisville Courier Journal doesn't mind running his columns:
"Republicans in the Kentucky General Assembly have conflated the concept of conservatism with opposition to any and all tax increases. This is unfortunate and incorrect. Properly understood, conservatism is an attitude of realistic prudence toward politics and society, not a rigid position on any single issue."

And then former Republican Rep. Jon Draud, currently Education Commissioner, showed the same condescending attitude toward people who oppose making government bigger in an interview this afternoon. If these guys are looking for someone else to be smarter than, I hope they feel free to pick me.

Ben Chandler getting comfortable in D.C.

The National Taxpayers Union 2007 Congressional report card is out and the numbers are fairly predictable for Kentucky's delegation.

The one thing that stands out is how far and how low Rep. Ben Chandler has slipped in his regard for taxpayer interests during his time in Washington D.C.

Chandler scored a 4% F in 2007, down from his high-water mark of 21% in 2005. For a little perspective, Senator Hillary Clinton had a 9% in 2005 and a 3% in 2007. Rep. John Yarmuth scored a 6% in 2007.

Kentucky's Republicans did significantly better.

Follow this link and you can look them up on your own.

Too much money in Kentucky education?

One of the least reported state government stories in recent years is the deplorable condition of financial controls in Kentucky's school systems.

Understanding this shines a different light on the current yammering about money by education bureaucrats and their enablers.

Be on the lookout for the talking point du jour about Kentucky underfunding its schools compared to other states. The other side of this one statistic suggests we may be actually overfunding schools. Given our mediocre education results in Kentucky, that should be some serious food for thought.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Now is when it starts getting fun...

In the last week before a pivotal grand jury session in Covington coming on April 10, the guillotine is about to fall hard at the Fayette County Detention Center.

Jail Director Ron Bishop is on his way out. Very soon.

Mayor Jim Newberry may actually have to comment on this one.

Long live the Gatton Academy!

Did you know David Hawpe is still alive and writing silly garbage for the Louisville Courier Journal?

In yesterday's column, Hawpe took issue with a magazine article headline that described the 120 high school students who got into WKU's Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science as the brightest in the state:
Based on that system, the ideal applicant ought to be a test-tutored grind who is adept at sucking up to teachers and counselors and telling interviewers what they want to hear.
Not exactly the type to end up on the senior superlative page in the yearbook, under the heading "Most Popular."
What do they do in the Florence Schneider Hall rec room: sit around chugging chai and debating string theory? Grooving on the latest episode of "Battlestar Galactica" or re-runs of "Dr. Who?"

Hawpe is upset that a small number of high school students who are better at math than he is don't have to stay stuck in their district schools if the curriculum isn't challenging enough for them.

Hawpe may be in luck, though. The Gatton Academy looks to be headed to the dustbin of good educational ideas because the General Assembly didn't put any funding in the 2009-10 budget for it. And, frankly, I'm surprised he seems to have missed the fact that the school was already operating illegally.

The Gatton Academy may well not exist for long, but the idea of improving educational opportunities shouldn't stop there. If we ended Kentucky's ridiculous prohibition of charter schools, it wouldn't have to.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

You are your neighbor's corporate financier

Government at all levels has already done such a fine job fixing up real estate markets, it is should be no surprise the Lexington city council wants to build a 35-story building.

And why should they worry something might go wrong? Lexington taxpayers are underwriting the project.

Not sure he cleared that with the candidates

Speaking on Face the Nation this morning, DNC Chair Howard Dean just explained that the increasingly bitter Democratic presidential primary won't hurt the eventual winner because "both candidates know this race is bigger that Senator Clinton or Senator Obama."

Saturday, April 05, 2008

New twist in Fayette Jail saga

FBI agents bearing subpoenas paid a visit to the Fayette County Detention Center yesterday in search of senior administration officials.

And a new word was added to the mix: embezzlement.

The grand jury investigating the mess at the jail meets Thursday, April 10. Justice Department officials speak privately about their surprise that the senior officials at FCDC have been unusually unhelpful in their investigation, which continues to grow tentacles.

Mayor Jim Newberry had no comment.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Kentucky's out-of-touch school bureaucrats

A month-old letter from Kentucky Education Association President Sharron Oxendine to legislators pushing for a seventy cent cigarette tax increase, Rep. Jim Wayne's wish list of further tax increases, and legalized casino gambling shows how far this "education" group has strayed from its intended purpose.

Now that Governor Steve Beshear is making the rounds to push for a special session on tax increases, this might be good time for a reminder of what these folks are up to.

Meanwhile, Education Commissioner Jon Draud is putting together his task force to study "improving" the CATS education assessment program. This group will be stacked with people like Oxendine and Prichard Committee-types with little interest in doing anything but screaming for more money.

While the Kentucky Department of Education is in charge of grading its own assessments, though, additional funding should be considered a very unwise investment.

Go here for the latest on that.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Focus on the big money

Now that our loan sharks are safe and schoolyard bullies are running for cover, we'd better get serious about our $26 billion monster.

Helen Mountjoy doesn't want you to read this

... but she probably wants your fourth grade teacher to "coach" you for a few months on the essay you will have to write about it.

Helen Mountjoy is the state Education Secretary and a big supporter of the status quo in Kentucky primary and secondary education.

Bad Kentucky test scores are bad news for her. Of course, the stranglehold the teachers union has on the system is bad news for the rest of us. But raising awareness helps matters over time. Go ahead and read this.

And then take a look at the KDE spin you will read in tomorrow's MSM.

Let's call them Austere Bonds

The word of the day in Frankfort has been "austere." That refers, of course, to the adjective most commonly used to describe the $19 billion dollar state spending plan passed last night. Just curious, I've looked all day for mention of the level of bonded indebtedness in this bill.

Haven't seen it in the media anywhere.

Bonded indebtedness is the amount that we expect to overshoot the mark of incoming revenues, but plan to go ahead and spend the money we don't have anyway, our constitutional prohibition of such activity "notwithstanding," as they say in the biz.

Got that?

Anyway, the bonded indebtedness we just agreed to heap on ourselves over the next two years is $1.2 billion. Thank your kids.

6:48 Update: Read Section 49 and 50 of the Kentucky Constitution for more on borrowing.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Making budget sausage in Frankfort

The Senate has put some of the previously removed infrastructure projects for the 2009-10 biennium into HB 410.

House Budget Chair Harry Moberly is on the floor now explaining why he is going to vote against the budget. He spoke feverishly, claiming the Senate was buying the House members off with projects.

The budget passed.

Live-blogging Mitch McConnell

Senator Mitch McConnell will speak to the Madison County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner gathering this Friday night. Dinner starts at 6pm at the Russell Action Folk Center, 212 W. Jefferson Street in Berea. Tickets are $25 and you can reserve yours by calling Chris Cooper at 859.200.7711.

See you there!

Courting the rapist and murderer vote

One interesting thing about the internet is so many people feel emboldened now to say what they really think.

Take, for instance, this from Kentuckians for the Commonwealth:
House Bill 70 to Restore Voting Rights to Former Felons who have served their debt to society has finally been called up for a vote on the House Floor today and passed with an overwhelming 80 "yes" votes to 14 "no" votes!

We're not at all happy that the House took took so very long to act on this bill, giving very little chance for it to get through the Senate, but we're very pleased that the bill did pass by such a wide margin.

The six floor amendments to the bill that KFTC opposed were all defeated, but Rep. Sal Santoro of Boone County, attached an amendment that exempted former felons convicted of manslaughter from the automatic restoration. KFTC opposes this change because we want all former felons to have the same chance to get their rights back.

HB 70 would automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons except for those convicted of sex crimes, murder, and manslaughter.

Some people -- like child molesters -- tear up their humanity cards. Forget about their voter registration cards. The bill has no chance in the Senate -- and having the KFTC folks screaming at David Williams is an interesting image. It seems to me we already set the bar for civic participation plenty low enough.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I thought Harry Moberly was the budget expert

Rep. Greg Stumbo made his way down to Senate President David Williams' office Tuesday and they agreed to scuttle the budget deal Harry Moberly and Speaker Jody Richards had negotiated.

In the super-secret closed-door negotiations, Moberly seemed more interested in not giving in to Williams than in arranging the budget properly so as to collect matching federal funds to build Kentucky roads.

Moberly and Richards were trying to work out the road spending so that Governor Steve Beshear could spend all the money in Democratic districts. They couldn't work that out and receive the matching funds, so they insisted on going without.

The bottom line is that Moberly and Richards let partisanship get in the way of common sense. This will cost them dearly. The new deal will result in more road and water projects across the state without spending more money.

How could Moberly and Richards have screwed that up so badly?

You mean maybe it WASN'T our fault?

Didn't the House and Senate leaders tell us the public had to get out of the conference committee room so they could work their magic and get a budget worked out?

Polwatchers suggests the House now doesn't have the votes to pass the secret spending plan.

Whether they pass the budget bill or not, the very idea that their lack of progress last week was the public's fault is worthy of the harshest scorn.

Bowling for sissies

Can we have a leader of the free world who bowls like this?

We are passing a tax increase

It looks increasingly likely that little or nothing will be done to address the public employee benefits shortfall we have known about for a long time.

Save the congratulations for the closed-door conferees until we see strong action taken on this front. Years after we started calling tax increases "fee increases," the ticking time bomb health and pension payments we are obligated to make, but don't have the money for represent an unprecedented tax increase on Kentuckians.

I wish this were an April Fools' joke. But at $26 billion and counting, it is no laughing matter.