A recent editorial in the Louisville Courier-Journal began:
It's difficult to overstate how outrageously Senate President David Williams is behaving, in the face of another shortfall -- nearly $300 million this time -- in state revenues.
This statement is half-true. It is difficult to overstate just what Senate President David Williams’ leadership means to the Kentucky taxpayer. I think State Senator-elect David Givens came close recently when he said of his election that "The firewall that the Senate has been remains strong."
Givens was speaking about expanded gambling, but the Senate under the leadership of President David Williams is a strong defense against tax increases and other bad ideas from the liberal editorial boards, our tax-increase-loving Governor and the spending-happy Kentucky House.
In the 2008 session, Williams rightly assessed that Kentuckians would prefer a limited budget to a $148 million tax increase, blocked the tax increases passed by the House and created and passed a budget that actually cut spending.
Now, as Governor Beshear once again starts to rattle on about his perceived need for more taxpayer dollars, Williams is once again standing strong:
Still, Williams said, he's not convinced that the state's financial problems are dire enough to require tax increases.
Instead of working with Williams, who leads one of Kentucky’s two legislative Houses and therefore is a necessary advisor on any issue, Beshear has tried to bide his time, waiting and wishing for political influence he doesn't have. Beshear should now clearly recognize that his activity is not getting anyone anywhere. In the four Senate races Governor Beshear has been personally involved in promoting fellow Democratic candidates, Williams has won all four.
"He goes out in extra trips and appears with the candidates," Williams said of Beshear's role in the election. "I don't see how he can be involved in that kind of thing and keep the specter of not being political."
Beshear raised money for and appeared at official events with the losing Democratic candidate in the open Republican seat in the 9th District in southern Kentucky and the challenger in Northern Kentucky's 23rd District. He also headlined a fund-raiser for Carroll Hubbard, the former congressman who served prison time in the 1990s for federal campaign finance violations and who ran unsuccessfully in the 1st District.
Earlier this year, Williams and Beshear wrestled over capturing the Eastern Kentucky state Senate seat left vacant when Daniel Mongiardo became lieutenant governor. Williams won that fight, too.
Apparently, Beshear still fails to recognize his counter-productive activity. Williams’ strength is such that Beshear doesn't have a clue how to deal with it, a problem that has faced many Kentucky politicians. Instead of diplomatically earning the respect necessary to create a working relationship with the Senate President, Beshear’s choices are combative, earning him only Williams’ mistrust.
Despite long odds, Beshear remains hopeful Democrats can take control of the Senate before his term ends in 2011.
"Oh, certainly it's possible," Beshear said.
Williams said he was baffled by that response.
"It doesn't sound like it's too smart a thing to say before you go into a legislative session," he said.
Reporter Ronnie Ellis noticed the implications, even if Beshear didn't:
David Williams showed again he’s much more formidable than Beshear seems to realize.
Republicans held onto all the Republican state Senate seats on the ballot, including the open 9th District which Democrats expected to win. David Givens won every county in the district except Barren, home of favored Democratic candidate Steve Newberry. Newberry had more money and the backing of Beshear and the local party and business establishments in the district’s most populous county. Givens won anyway. It was the second consecutive high profile Senate race (after the special election last spring in the 30th District) where Beshear got involved and the Republican ran against expanded gambling and defeated Beshear’s chosen candidate.
It doesn’t bode well for Beshear or his agenda.
Maybe one day Beshear will actually heed his own rhetoric about it not mattering if it's a Democrat's idea or a Republican's idea, stop flying the state's plane around to campaign, and actually step up and lead on some issue like state pension reform, putting forward an honestly responsible budget, or maybe repealing the office of the State Treasurer.
Until then, taxpayers can be all the more grateful for their ally in the Senate.