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Monday, April 02, 2012

"Louisville Courier Journal: Dud Of A Kentucky Legislative Session In Kentucky." We Agree, But At Least They Passed A State Budget.

Editorial | Dud of a Kentucky legislative session

There’s very little good to be said about the record of the 2012 Kentucky General Assembly. Very little. But there’s one thing for which the lawmakers can get backhanded praise: They reached a budget compromise.

Emerging at 3 a.m., roughly the same time hard-core drunks are heading home from the bar, Senate and House conferees announced an agreement on Thursday. Thus, they avoided the donnybrooks that have occurred in recent years that required extended or special sessions.

That said, it is, as state Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, pronounced, “a very ugly budget.” There’s no money for raises for teachers and state workers. With cuts of 6.4 percent for public universities, parents and students will be faced with still higher tuition at a time when debt for student loans has reached a historic high and has become an appalling burden on the middle class. Many in that category may also face rising costs as they are forced to bear more of the costs for the elderly and disabled.

The compromise, however, avoided a major crisis for Louisville and for its University Hospital. The Republican Senate, which at times seemed to be at war with the state’s largest city this session, had proposed a whopping cut of $13.9 million from the grant for the care of indigents at the teaching hospital. (This comes at the same time that a few budget-conscious members of the Louisville Metro Council have been talking about reducing their contribution to that fund, too.) A compromise reached in Frankfort restored the funding, but with the proviso that if local government gets a rebate from the hospital for what it owes, the state must get a refund of the same dollar amount.

Despite the documented outcome of the 2011 gubernatorial race, the real winner, it appears, was Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, whose wily use of his GOP-dominated branch seems to be running the table in Frankfort. Gov. Steve Beshear, the ostensible winner last fall, proposed a casino gambling amendment, which was promptly defeated in the Senate; after that, Mr. Beshear was about as visible in the Capitol as Judge Crater. As the clocked ticked toward the recess, he was busy issuing an executive order calling for “Battle of the Bluegrass Day” today.

Much of what Mr. Williams and his Senate colleagues accomplished was either a waste of time (the so-called “Neighborhoods Schools Bill,” for instance) or spite (a bill that would have made the attorney general’s office non-partisan). The fact that in modern times no Republican has come close to being elected attorney general was said not to be a motive.

To be sure, this session benefited from the skill of House Speaker Greg Stumbo, himself a former attorney general, who is every bit as foxy and adroit in his legislative skills as Sen. Williams. But the ultimate outcome is that very little advanced to benefit the commonwealth. And, at a time when the state is feeling the impact of the recession more acutely than ever, the hardships that will result from this parsimonious spending plan will be real, and in some cases enduring.



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