Kentucky Club for Growth
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October 30, 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Ronnie Ellis says "They also don't have the resolve or the intellectual honest to tell the public we can't keep sending more and more people to jail for minor drug offenses without foregoing other funding needs like education and infrastructure improvements."...

...while 500 nabbed in drug roundup

Tea Party in Maysville on Nov. 7

Picking candidates in the 96th House district

KACo spends lavishly

NKy Tea Party to protest 'trails study'

Trimble county parents want all day Kindergarten

Knox county sheriff keeps finances in order

We're Running Late Today, So Check Out The Special Election In NY-23

The Club for Growth is going to make something great happen.

If you haven't been following, the GOP nominated a poor candidate, and the Club has been heavily involved in supporting Conservative candidate Doug Hoffman.

On Tuesday, he will win.

From Stuart Rothenberg

In New York's 23rd district, another three-way race, Republican nominee Dede Scozzafava now seems like an afterthought.

Baseball statistician-turned-political-statistics guru Nate Silver, who seems to question the integrity and veracity of every Republican or conservative poll that he doesn't like, has raised questions about the newest Club for Growth survey, which shows Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman holding a slight lead of 32 percent to 28 percent over Democrat Bill Owens.

In fact, more than one poll (public and private) shows that the liberal Republican has slid into third place and that the race is statistically even between Hoffman and Owens. (For the record, Club for Growth pollster Jon Lerner is among the least likely pollsters to fudge numbers or manipulate data.)

October 29, 2009

Senate Names New Chairmen

Following up on our post about Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Robert Stivers being named Floor Leader, the Senate named two new committee chairmen today.

Sen. Tom Jensen (2008 rank #T-11) was named co-Chairman of the Interim Joint Committee on Judiciary. Jensen was formerly chair of the Committee on Natural Resources and Energy.

To replace Jensen there, committee Vice Chair Brandon Smith (#23) was named co-chair of the Interim Joint Committee on Natural Resources and Environment.

These appointments are actually to the joint committees that exist in between sessions, and may not indicate that these will be the chairmen of the Senate committees when session resumes in January, but it's a strong possibility.

Sen. Leeper Comments On Senate 14

KyWordSmith.com has the story on the event we noted on Monday:

"Before the end of that election, both candidates will be destroyed," said Senator Bob Leeper (I-2nd District), speaking of the December 8th Special Election in the 14th Senatorial District. Leeper, who has served in the Kentucky Senate for 19 years and is the only politician in Kentucky history to successfully defend his legislative seat as Democrat, Republican, AND an Independent, shared his thoughts with about 25 activists from the McCracken County Grassroots GroupĀ on Monday night. The Chairman of the powerful Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee continued by saying that he expects the race to get dirty, citing the recent special election between Democrat Robin Webb and Republican Jack Ditty in the 18th District as an example of what is to come.

Unfortunately, the story does not discuss the advertised topic of the night "What is the proper role of Government?" but you should read the rest anyway.

House 97: Collins Draws Opponent

Democratic Rep. and House Transportation Chair Hubie Collins has drawn an opponent for 2010.

A well-known former basketball coach from Eastern Kentucky has announced that he will run for state representative.

Bill Mike Runyon who retired from coaching at Paintsville High School last year, is seeking the Republican Party's nomination to run in the 97th District, which serves Johnson and Martin counties, and parts of Pike and Floyd counties.

The seat is currently held by Rep. Hubert Collins, a Democrat who has served since 1991.

A press release said Runyon would like to tackle issues, such as "the full out assault on coal mining, the strangle hold the government has on our individual liberties, the problems with our state budget, and the need to move forward in education."

Runyon who has also retired from teaching, currently serves on the Paintsville City Council.

Rep. Collins ranked #78 with a paltry score of 24 in our 2008 scorecard.

The district itself swings pretty well. Martin and Johnson counties can be strong Republican counties. McConnell received 63% of the vote in these two counties in 2008 and McCain received 73%. About two-thirds of 97th district voters are in these two counties. The remaining third live in portions of Pike and Floyd counties. These two counties are strongly Democratic, where Bruce Lunsford received 60% of the vote. If you weigh the 2008 Senate vote two-thirds to Martin and Johnson and one-third to Pike and Floyd, that would represent about 55% for McConnell, suggesting there is an opportunity for the challenger.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Churchill reports increased revenues...

...posts loss from big tax bill.

Broke school insurance fund proposes merger with broke city insurance fund

Carrollton discusses downtown plans

Luallen to release KACO findings soon

Laurel County offers tax-break to lure company, criticizes library tax increase

Wal-Mart now selling caskets

October 28, 2009

Here's An Idea For Savings: Abolish The Education Secretary

We just got a press release letting us know that Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy is retiring from her post at the end of November.

Gov. Steve Beshear announced today that Helen Mountjoy, secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, has resigned her position effective Nov. 30 citing a long commute and a desire to spend more time with her family.

The Education Secretary is one of the most overrated titles in Kentucky state government. While the position is ostensibly a director in charge of P-12 education, postsecondary education and workforce development, it really only has charge of the latter. The Department of Education (KDE) and the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) are agencies set up to operate independently of the governor's administration. Each has its own board of directors that hire a chair or commissioner to administer the department.

There is little question that these agencies need to coordinate in order to maximize the effectiveness of education in Kentucky. Governor Ernie Fletcher attempted to improve this coordination by combining them into this single cabinet. States like Florida have emphasized this need by combining P-12 administration with postsecondary administration and have a single board with jurisdiction over all "P-16" education.

Nonetheless, an Education Secretary is not required for this coordination to occur; only the willingness of the KDE and the CPE.

No, the small office of the Secretary is easily dispensable. The section over which the Secretary has actual authority -- workforce development -- can just as easily exist in another cabinet, say, Economic Development.

We keep reading of the incredible budget crunch confronting the state. Mountjoy's resignation presents an opportunity for some quick and permanent savings.

Senate 14: Higdon Officially The Republican Nominee

The Republican Committees of the counties of Kentucky's 14th Senate district have met and made Rep. Jimmy Higdon's nomination official:

Higdon said Tuesday he is ready for what promises to be an expensive election that focuses heavily on the expansion of gambling at horse racetracks.

"I think I will be outspent," Higdon said. "I am the underdog going in, but I will win. I like being the underdog."

Comrade of the Month nominee Ed Worley thinks the district is a Democratic district.

Senate Minority Leader Ed Worley, D-Richmond, said his caucus would support whoever is nominated by Democratic leaders in the district, which has voted for Republican state lawmakers in recent years even though a majority of voters are registered as Democrats.

"We're going to contest that seat as aggressively as we possible can," Worley said. "It's really a Democrat district, but we're not taking anything for granted."

But our analysis shows a divided electorate.

This district voted overwhelmingly for McCain, and gave about a 6% edge to McConnell. On the other hand, the four counties that lie in the 2nd US congressional district gave a slight edge to losing Democratic candidate David Boswell over US Representative Brett Guthrie in that race.

Regardless, the race will most likely be made into another referendum on casinos

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Is Richie playin' in the Governor's Race?

Protesters fail to stop conditional donation

$2 million shortfall predicted for Lexington

Auditor Luallen honored

Boone could face $1.3 million deficit

Tourism in Kentucky declines

Oldham Water Board Chairman gets hefty raise

Ellis Park cuts racing, simulcasting, staff

Franklin City rejects entertainment tax

Jody Richards fights gangs

Richmond shows $2.6 million deficit

October 27, 2009

Senate 32: Website Launched; Robocalls Denounced

Usually, action for state legislative seats doesn't actually get going until after the completion of the General Assembly's regular session in an election year.

The action in Mike Reynold's 32nd Senate district has kicked off early.

Recently we relayed the report that Reynolds already had two individuals filed to run against him.

Page One Kentucky pointed out that one even has a website up already.

Now comes a story of robocalls that no one will claim credit for.

Sen. Mike Reynolds, D-Bowling Green, confirmed that there have been robo calls made to area residents disparaging his record but he would comment no further.

The two Republicans who will battle each other in the primary say they have had nothing to do with the calls and in fact tried to get to the source.

"We denounce this tactic, and we are concentrating on the May Republican primary," candidate Ed Mills said. "The natural thing is for people to accuse either Mike Wilson or me of financing these calls, but we would like to make it clear that we have not."

-SNIP-

Wilson said the calls purportedly questioned Reynolds' lack of effort on one of his committees and called him names.

Crazy politics already!

If You Live Out In The Purchase

Or nearby, there's an event tonight that should be interesting.

From McCracken County Republican Grassroots (on facebook):

Date: Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Time: 6:30pm - 7:30pm Central
Location: Lone Oak Lions Club, 680 Denver Ave. Paducah, KY 42001

The McCracken County Grassroots Committee is pleased to announce its' next Meeting! We are also very excited to have as our special guest speaker Kentucky State Senator Bob Leeper. Sen. Leeper is the only Independent Senator in Frankfort and a solid conservative voice. We are a conservative group and we welcome all conservative Kentuckians to this meeting, please bring your questions and comments as this will be an opportunity to examine according to our founders and relevant to our current situations, what truly is the proper role of government in America and in Kentucky today. Cant wait to see you all there!

We wish we could go. We'd love for someone to send us a report.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Some ruckus over putting the word 'coal' on coal-powered and funded campus building

Tracks follow Ellis lead, cut race days

Ashland website hacked

PSC approves 20% Columbia Gas rate hike

House 96 race gets underway

Woodford breeders guilty of fraud

Louisville Arena economic impact estimated at $100 million

Clark County cuts budget 30%!

Expanded gambling explained

Rand Paul visits Garrard

October 26, 2009

Kelly Appointed, Special Elections Called For Senate 14, House 96

As a part of the master plan to create a compliant Senate, Governor Beshear has appointed Dan Kelly to a judgeship. If you wanted to know whether the appointment was just because the Governor thought there was absolutely no one better for the job, he called for the special election immediately. If you wondered if the governor was always so prompt, he also finally called the special election to fill the 96th house district that had been vacant for over eight weeks.

From Page One:

Governor Steve Beshear just appointed Dan Kelly the 11th Circuit judgeship.

From the press release:

"Sen. Kelly has the appropriate temperament and experience for this position," said Gov. Beshear. "I feel confident he will provide fair, honest and judicious service to the people of the 11th Judicial Circuit."

We hear he'll be sworn in by the end of the day. But there's still no word on when the Governor will present a writ of election.

UPDATE: Well dang. Just 11 minutes later...

Governor Beshear calls special elections to fill vacant legislative seats

Here's our earlier analysis of the competitiveness of the 14th Senate district.

Kentucky's Pension Disaster Update

The Courier-Journal wrote on the disaster that is the state's rich pension program, sounding much like a broken record in a time period that really extends over the last two years.

Facing a bleak budget situation, the 2010 legislature will nevertheless be asked to increase the General Fund contribution to the public employee retirement plans by at least $74 million in the next two-year budget period, according to early Legislative Research Commission estimates.

-SNIP-

The KRS pension fund, which had a value of $9.81 billion as of June 30, suffered a 17 percent decline last fiscal year. The $2 billion health insurance fund experienced a 23 percent loss.

In the summer of 2008 the legislature passed House Bill 1, which put the state on a 20-year timeline to get state pension systems back to full funding.

That requires a jump in the state's contribution rate from 11.5 percent of payroll for non-hazardous-duty workers this fiscal year to 16.04 percent next year and 18.6 percent the following year, according to preliminary retirement systems estimates.

But it remains to be seen whether the legislature and Gov. Steve Beshear will stick to that funding timeline. Lawmakers could vote to suspend it.

Does it really remain to be seen?

Last session saw the legislature borrow $50 million from the fund as well as allow counties and cities to forgo their required contributions.

Is there actually any suspense about what they're going to do this year?

Maybe this horrible budget situation will prompt actual reform! (right)

Who Makes Better Profits Than Health Insurers? Railroads, For One...

Those health insurers sure are greedy, right?

Well, not as greedy as Tupperware!

From the AP

Ledgers tell a different reality. Health insurance profit margins typically run about 6 percent, give or take a point or two. That's anemic compared with other forms of insurance and a broad array of industries, even some beleaguered ones.

Profits barely exceeded 2 percent of revenues in the latest annual measure. This partly explains why the credit ratings of some of the largest insurers were downgraded to negative from stable heading into this year, as investors were warned of a stagnant if not shrinking market for private plans.

SNIP

THE NUMBERS:

Health insurers posted a 2.2 percent profit margin last year, placing them 35th on the Fortune 500 list of top industries. As is typical, other health sectors did much better -- drugs and medical products and services were both in the top 10.

The railroads brought in a 12.6 percent profit margin. Leading the list: network and other communications equipment, at 20.4 percent.

HealthSpring, the best performer in the health insurance industry, posted 5.4 percent. That's a less profitable margin than was achieved by the makers of Tupperware, Clorox bleach and Molson and Coors beers.

The star among the health insurance companies did, however, nose out Jack in the Box restaurants, which only achieved a 4 percent margin.

Kevin Sell to Challenge Pendery for Campbell CJE

Well, our earlier speculation was completely wrong.

Former 4th District GOP Chair Kevin Sell of Alexandria has filed a letter of intent to run against incumbent Campbell Judge-executive Steve Pendery in next year's GOP primary.

Looks like taxes and spending will likely be the central issues of that race; Sell has criticized Pendery for recent increases in the property tax rate and for spending on the new county administration building (which was, as Pendery points out, in the works before he took office 10 years ago).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Western Kentucky supports I-69

Eastern Kentucky recycling plant to create 1,400 jobs

Boone County CJE candidates debate trails study

The Herald Leader starts a series on retail in Lexington

No one knows what is really going on with the stimulus

Surprise! State pensions underfunded

October 23, 2009

Stivers Elected Floor Leader

Senator Robert Stivers (2008 rank: #T-19) was elected Floor Leader by the Senate Republican caucus today over Senator Damon Thayer (#2). Sen. Ken Winters (#T-11) opted not to run.

Sen. Stivers has long been one of the most influential and most effective of the Senate caucus members, although in a low-key manner that is easily overlooked by those unfamiliar with the workings of the Senate.

Congratulations to him.

His ascension into leadership creates a vacancy in the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Interestingly, the Republicans on the committee mainly consist of Senate Republican leadership: Sen. President Pro Tem Katie Stine (#1), Republican Caucus Chair Sen. Dan Seum (#7), and Republican Whip Sen. Carroll Gibson (#T-11). If the next chairman is a current committee member, the choice would be between Sen. Jack Westwood (#T-5) and Sen. John Schickel (new).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Legislators discuss domestic violence monitoring bill

Percentage of mares in Kentucky rises year-on-year, steady since 2003

Commerce Lexington hires consultant to tell Lexington not to feel bad about itself

Breeders' Cup betting goes global

Gatewoodsays it's his turn

Louisville could build Ford SUVs for export

KCTCS advocacy tour for funding

Laurel County Fiscal Court violates open meetings

Free chicken

October 22, 2009

Thayer Would Be Good Choice For Floor Leader

Following up on reports of the Senate Republican Leadership election to be held Friday, Amanda Van Benschoten reports on Sen. Damon Thayer's interest in the Floor Leader position.

Northern Kentucky state Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is running for Majority Floor Leader in the Senate, he said today.

Thayer, whose district includes Grant and southern Kenton counties, has served in the Senate since 2003 and has chaired the Senate State and Local Government Committee since 2005.

"I think I've proven my ability to effectively run the committee in an organized and respectful fashion, and I think it's time for me to make the next step," he said. "It's probably an uphill climb, but I'm going to give it my best shot, because I think it's a fight worth making."

Senator Thayer ranked #2 overall on our 2008 scorecard, and will likely score well again in 2009. It is a deliberate effort on his part to protect the taxpayer, championing more transparent and limited government from his position as the Chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

Earlier this week we mentioned that state Representative Charlie Hoffman was the lowest ranked member in 2008. It was a small irony that Scott County was represented by the lowest ranking member of the house and almost the highest ranking member of the Senate.

In a September 2008 report on the rankings in the Georgetown News Graphic, Senator Thayer remarked:

"I never forget that the money the state spends is the taxpayers' money," he said, "the money of the hard-working people of Kentucky. I spend a lot of time in my district and it's a big district. I fight to protect their money in Frankfort."

Kentucky would be greatly benefited to have such a champion in legislative leadership.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Windows 7 out today

Greenup County library sees record crowds

Greg Stumbo is a coward

Aramark gets low grades from prisoners; Cabinet thinks prisoners don't like healthy choices

Beshear against gambling amendment he supported 19 months ago

Jim Gray was right not to settle

Louisville airport expansion creates jobs

Kentucky electric rates to rise because of wind energy

New spending program for smokers advocated

Berea lowers taxes

Man bags 850 pound elk

October 21, 2009

Update: Latest Senate 14 Rumor

It has been suggested that there's a chance that Sen. Kelly will step down before and perhaps without the predicted judicial appointment. While this does not make sense, Kentucky politics often don't.

Apparently we misheard. Sen. Kelly has resigned from his leadership position.

Senators Damon Thayer (2008 Rank #2), Ken Winters (#11) and Robert Stivers (#19) are rumored to be interested in replacing his as Floor Leader.

Sen. Kerr Gains Opponent

Lexington Senator Alice Forgy Kerr (2008 score: 70) has gained an opponent for 2010.

Disappointed with Republican state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr's vote this summer against a bill to allow video lottery terminals at Kentucky racetracks, a prominent Democratic businessman in the horse-racing industry plans to run against her next year.

Terry Meyocks, co-owner of the Nicholasville-based Meyocks & O'Hara Racing Enterprises, said Tuesday he has filed papers with the state to raise money to campaign for the Senate's 12th District seat, which covers much of southern Fayette County and Keeneland.

Sen. Kerr has faced tough opponents before, and represents a conservative part of Fayette County.

Casino Amendments Proposed

The big news yesterday and today is that state Senate leadership has proposed two constitutional amendments to be considered during the coming legislative session.

While the Kentucky Club for Growth generally ignores this issue, we thought we'd offer our analysis of this particular proposal from a perspective of economic liberty.

The proposal put forward has two parts. The first part is an amendment from Sen. Damon Thayer that would allow casinos in each of the seven counties with racetracks.:

His proposal calls for allowing video lottery terminals in each of the seven counties that currently have live racing. The gaming would be administered by the state lottery, and the seven gaming licenses would be put to bid.

Thayer's proposal calls for putting the constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot. It also requires a local option, so voters in each county would have to approve gaming if the amendment passes.

The constitutional amendment would require 25 percent (or at least $100 million) of gaming revenue be dedicated to the Kentucky Equine Excellence Program (KEEP), and 25 percent to the gaming operator. The remaining 50 percent would go to the Building Kentucky's Future Fund to pay for capital projects and pay off debt.

Revenue from license fees would be distributed 50/50 to KEEP and to the Building Kentucky's Future Fund.

The second part is an amendment from Senate President David Williams that would subject any expansion of gambling to a statewide popular vote on the issue.

Let's examine the elements of Thayer's proposal:

A constitutional amendment is certainly a vehicle that allows Kentucky's voters to have their say on the issue.

Limiting VLTs to the seven counties that already have live racing is certainly a limitation on the effectiveness of the VLTs. Numerous studies suggest that expanded gambling is generally a net economic loss for a state as local commerce is displaced. However, the loss can be replaced by commerce generated by tourism if travel to the gaming establishments is sufficiently high. Two of the more obvious locations to generate tourism -- north of Nashville and Ashland -- are not included in the seven counties that currently host live racing.

Allowing the state lottery to administer the VLTs makes some sense, but the commission will need to expand and require significantly greater transparency and stricter ethics requirements.

Putting the seven licenses to bid is the proper way to distribute new licenses. It allows the state to maximize the benefit to the taxpayer and allows fair competition to offer the new entertainment services.

Requiring a local option allows local constituencies to reject the casinos. This would seem a necessary part of any expansion. The local governments should be guaranteed some portion of revenues from the local VLTs, however.

The 75% tax on revenues is extremely high, much higher than any other state. The way it is constructed, with 25% to KEEP almost guarantees that only members of KEEP would be able to operate VLTs successfully, thus mitigating the benefit of bidding the licenses originally by limiting the field of interested bidders. The overall tax rate would also seem to limit the competitiveness of Kentucky casinos versus surrounding states, who are allowed more of their revenues to invest in their products and services.

That's our quick free-market analysis. Send us an email if you think we've missed anything.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wow, check out all the political news from yesterday (scroll down)

Kentucky River lock 4 to be repaired

Williams and Thayer decide it's time for an amendment on gambling

Former Bluegrass airport directors indicted

School districts oppose Stumbo plan

Boyd targeting contract employees in payroll tax crackdown

Spencer county goes wet

Discouraged job seekers allow Kentucky unemployment to drop for first time in almost two years

Corbin wants Colonel Harlan Sanders statue

Richmond sends out tax bills a month earlier

Alan Keyes to speak to schools in Todd county

MTV's Real World to cast in Lexington

October 20, 2009

Quarles Announces He Will Run In The 62nd

Ryan Quarles has announced his candidacy for State Representative, making his interest officially public at the Scott County GOP picnic.

Ryan should be a strong candidate for the seat, being well-known in the county as well as a very smart and likable individual.

The 62nd is currently represented by Charlie Hoffman, who readers may remember as being the lowest rated member of the House in 2008. Here is an excerpt of our summary of his record in 2008:

Charlie Hoffman's low ranking is based entirely on his actions in the 2008 General Assembly Regular Session. These include:

  • Voting twice against legislation that says classified government employees can't canvas for political ballot initiatives while at work (SB 64)
  • Supporting $148 million in new taxes and tax increases to expand spending (HB 262)
  • Spending those tax increases in the most indebted budget in state history (HB 406)
  • Supporting a legislative budget that grows at over 5% per year, well above historic rates of inflation (HB 407)
  • Creating extra penalties for employers who have already paid for classification mistakes made in a system that has different rules from worksite to worksite (HB 654)
  • Sponsoring legislation that singles out mining for fill practices that are common in homebuilding, road construction and commercial development (HB 164)
  • Supporting new mandates that make health insurance more expensive for everyone (HB 148)
  • Supporting a new 2% tax on wages for new businesses in 'development areas' that in only some cases offset against other taxes (HB 611)

We will watch this race with great interest.

Kevin Sell To Seek Statewide Office?

Lots of speculation here, but here goes...

Kevin Sell has announced that he is resigning from the chairmanship of the GOP's 4th district. From Amanda Van Benschoten:

Kevin Sell has resigned as chairman of the Fourth Congressional District Republican Party, effective Wednesday.

Sell, 45, of Alexandria, submitted his resignation on Monday to Republican Party of Kentucky Chairman Steve Robertson, who could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

"I'm resigning to pursue another direction, and I think that will become self-evident in a very short period of time," said Sell, who is widely rumored to be considering a run for public office.

According the KREF, Sell lives in Adam Koenig's House district (69) and Katie Stine's Senate district (24), both Republicans. And we think it's safe to say he's not jumping in the US Senate race or a race against Representative Geoff Davis.

So which statewide office? We suppose any that Richie Farmer doesn't run for. Although we wouldn't bet against helping out Grayson in some way before that...

Two in Race Against Sen. Reynolds for Senate 32

Two Republicans have begun fundraising to take on Sen. Mike Reynolds, the Senator elected in the special election to replace US Representative Brett Guthrie.

The first campaign finance reports filed by two political newcomers for the 32nd District Senate seat show very little money has been raised.

The two Republicans, Ed Mills and Mike Wilson, said their fundraising is picking up now for the race to get the seat held by Democrat Mike Reynolds. The reports were filed early this month at the conclusion of the last quarter.

Right now, neither has really quite launched their effort, and it is actually quite early to be assembling a campaign.

Back during the special election, we touted taxpayer champion Jim DeCesare for this seat, and we do not know if he is interested.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Senator Robin Webb looks ahead

Lexmark to cut 825 jobs, ACS hires 300

Study says Lexington needs more cheap condos

Rumor that Senate GOP might push gambling amendment

Judge discredits witness in Transportation kickbacks case

Kentuckians gamble $118 million in Indiana, according to Indiana

Charter school bill gains attention

Beshear launches education taskforce

Gas prices on the rise

Race in Senate 32 gets started

Kentucky ghost stories

October 19, 2009

Need A Golf Cart?

The government's giving them away, thanks to your taxdollars!

From the Wall Street Journal:

We thought cash for clunkers was the ultimate waste of taxpayer money, but as usual we were too optimistic. Thanks to the federal tax credit to buy high-mileage cars that was part of President Obama's stimulus plan, Uncle Sam is now paying Americans to buy that great necessity of modern life, the golf cart.

The federal credit provides from $4,200 to $5,500 for the purchase of an electric vehicle, and when it is combined with similar incentive plans in many states the tax credits can pay for nearly the entire cost of a golf cart. Even in states that don't have their own tax rebate plans, the federal credit is generous enough to pay for half or even two-thirds of the average sticker price of a cart, which is typically in the range of $8,000 to $10,000. "The purchase of some models could be absolutely free," Roger Gaddis of Ada Electric Cars in Oklahoma said earlier this year. "Is that about the coolest thing you've ever heard?"

The golf-cart boom has followed an IRS ruling that golf carts qualify for the electric-car credit as long as they are also road worthy. These qualifying golf carts are essentially the same as normal golf carts save for adding some safety features, such as side and rearview mirrors and three-point seat belts. They typically can go 15 to 25 miles per hour.

Read the rest...

...sigh

Via the Club for Growth

For the cost of the remaining stimulus program in the US, you could cut the cap gains rate by 25 percent for a decade.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Don't forget to vote for Stumbo, Keeling, Worley or Beshear for Comrade of the Month

Free and reduced lunches are up

Stumbo wants school districts to fund themselves

Tom Eblen went to the Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center annual conference

City of Louisville to write menus for all Louisville restaurants

Private efforts to make public schools work

The economics of jail budgeting

Beshear's school visit shuts down school all day

State fails to honor tire tax's purpose

NKY Convention Center pushes expansion as budgets are cut

Examples of legislative ethics failures

Democrats meet to congratulate themselves on being so great

October 16, 2009

Friday, October 16, 2009

US Senate candidates quarterly fundraising filed

Home sales up 11% in Lexington...

...foreclosures up 12% in Kentucky

$800,000 of taxpayer dollars approved for Disney Co.

Beshear updates transparency site

October 15, 2009

Kentucky's Air Is Better

Coal has been in the news quite a bit recently, with the Herald-Leader covering recent hearings on surface mining permits, and editorializing:

The real faces of coal

Death, poverty, pollution, low taxes and ruined roads

With an attitude like that, it's no wonder we missed seeing any of the following information in the Herald:

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet announced Friday that Boyd County and eight other Kentucky counties will be removed from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's non-attainment list for 24-hour fine particulate matter standards.

...

All 120 Kentucky counties now meet the EPA's 24-hour fine particulate matter standard, according to the EEC. The EPA's decisions to remove the non-attainment designation from those areas was based on the inclusion of 2008 data in a three-year average of particulate matter measurements. Previous designations were based on a three year average taken from air monitoring data collected between 2005 and 2007.

Wouldn't want improvements like that to get in the way of their agenda to end one of Kentucky's largest industries.

The Green Economy Run Amok

We at the Kentucky Club for Growth encourage people to choose to make conservation a priority. But we don't know whether to laugh or sigh when people claim that new government mandates are in any way equivalent to economic growth.

This recent episode in Ohio shows exactly how ridiculous things can get when legislators think they can force conservation on companies without impacting taxpayers.

Apparently, last year the Ohio legislature passed a law that required electricity producers to reduce demand for their product:

Raines said a state energy law passed last year requires utilities to cut electricity demand by 22 percent by 2025. The law contains annual benchmarks that start this year, so utilities must take steps to reduce demand.

In order to comply with this regulation, FirstEnergy decided to encourage its customers to switch to energy-efficient CFL light bulbs by sending two of them to every customer.

Raines said FirstEnergy thinks more consumers are more likely to use the energy-efficient bulbs if they are delivered to them. Its plan was approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

About 80 percent of the bulbs will be hand-delivered to customers, with the rest being delivered by mail. Delivery of the 3.75 million bulbs will start Monday and take about five weeks.

Of course, the cost of the bulbs and their delivery will be borne by the consumers.

The utility will charge customers about 60 cents a month for three years in exchange for delivering the compact fluorescent bulbs to the door or mailbox.

The average residential customer will pay $21.60 over three years for the two 23-watt CFLs, which are equivalent to 100-watt incandescent bulbs.

Retailers sell the CFLs for about $9 a pair.

Purportedly, the transaction works out for the consumer...

Despite the fee, consumers will save about $60 in electricity costs over the life of the bulbs, which is expected to be five to 10 years, Raines said.

...but overall, it seems a silly thing for the legislature to have forced on citizens.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Carroll County thoroughly explains Kentucky's new property tax collection rules

Crazy fraud scheme in Christian County

Home sales up in Bluegrass

Richmond City loan illegal

Winery wants Sunday sales

Victory for taxpayers as state carbuying subsidy unused

October 14, 2009

Rep. Ken Upchurch To Retire

State Representative Ken Upchurch has announced that he will not seek reelection in 2010, opting instead to run for Wayne County CJE.

His announcement creates an open seat in the 52nd House district-- one of the most Republican districts in the state.

The 52nd consists mainly of McCreary and Wayne counties, but also contains a bite of Pulaski. Wayne and McCreary counties voted for McCain by about 72%-28% and McConnell 62%-38%. Pulaski was similarly tilted, 78%--22% for McCain and 68%-32% for McConnell.

Out of such strong potential, Mr. Upchurch scored only 53 in 2007, although improving to a 69 in 2008, but still short of 70 -- a score the Kentucky Club for Growth considers acceptable.

The 52nd district represents a real opportunity to find a new taxpayer champion in the commonwealth.

New 2010 Spending Proposals From Jefferson County School Board

There are many elements that combine to create a quality education for students.

Recently, this fact has been used as an excuse to expand public school spending to non-educational items.

In their 2010 legislative proposals, the Jefferson County School Board has a couple of proposals to spend your money:

  • full state funding for full-time nurses in every school
  • eliminating some limitations on their taxing authority so that they can raise taxes easier

Additionally, they want to be able to evaluate their superintendents in closed-door meetings, while giving superintendents greater authority in hiring "leadership positions". We expect their motives are pure, but the effective result of these two parts is an opportunity for the school board members to express to the superintendent in a meeting closed to the public, whether they think he's hiring their friends into "leadership positions" enough.

This is not a path they should continue down...Transparency is just about always better.

Leland Conway: Rep. Ben Chandler is in no political position to lecture us about signature industries

On Monday, we posted a link to an op-ed US Rep. Ben Chandler wrote, entitled:

We must protect our own industries

In his most recent piece, Leland Conway says Rep. Chandler left a few out:

6th District Representative Ben Chandler wrote an Op-ed this week entitled "Protect our Signature Industries." I eagerly began reading his piece hoping for a mea culpa of sorts for his vote in favor of Cap and Trade legislation that would cripple Kentucky's coal industry. I thought perhaps he had changed his mind and would now seek to redeem himself with regard to one of Kentucky's most important exports. No such luck.

Chandler's vote in favor of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade legislation categorically disqualifies him from commenting on Kentucky's other signature industries. While I agree with him regarding the importance of the Bourbon and Horse Industries to our commonwealth, it is hard to take a lecture from him about what to do to protect them.

Read more

On Term Limits

Today, the Courier Journal editorializes in opposition to term limits

After a pointless rant about term limits simply being political sour grapes, they make their argument:

Voters going to the polls on Election Day set term limits. They are the best judge of whether a person deserves a second term. Not politicians who are envious of another's success.

It is an argument with which we sympathize. We believe fundamentally in the right and the efficient utility of people to decide what is best for themselves, and this argument is consistent.

The nonsensical editorial does not make this argument, however. Instead, it says that term limits only exist out of Republican spite to the deceased FDR, and that only Republicans care about limiting terms (especially when they're out of power).

This is baloney.

Term limits on the presidency protect the country. They protect our descent into de facto corrupt dictatorship with a compliant legislature.

We all know our government has no compunction against spending money it doesn't have. We are all aware that too many politicians are happy to spend as much as they can, porking up spending bills, because they feel that -- if they pass enough of our taxdollars to their constituencies -- they will be reelected.

An old saying has it that there are three parties in Congress -- Democrats, Republicans and Appropriators (those who write the spending bills). The truth to this extends because there is very little prospect that a member of the Appropriations Committee would ever vote against a spending bill, regardless of party affiliation.

Term limits are a check against this moral and literal bankruptcy. You cannot attempt to spend your way into reelection if you are prohibited from running for reelection.

This is one of many reasons term limits benefit our political system. Instead of discussing real reasons, the simple editorial pretends that a persuasive argument is that, without limits, "in 1988, Ronald Reagan would have been a shoo-in for a third term."

Which leaves us wondering as always: Does the Courier-Journal editorial page really try this hard to remain oblivious?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beshear subsidizes dentistry with $2 million

State works to reform gambling

EPA hearing on surface mining

Lexington council attempts to contain student housing

Ford, UAW reach contract

Home sales up in Louisville again

Jefferson County schools have pretend choice

Abramson loves spending the stimulus

October 13, 2009

Beshear Criticizes Stimulus, Allows Obama To Censor Stimulus Report

Apparently, Kentucky has submitted a report to the federal government about stimulus spending in Kentucky.

What's it say?

We won't know until the Obama administration gives it an OK:

Kentucky doesn't plan to divulge any of the information it submitted -- data that includes job estimates -- until a federal review period ends in late October.

"Once they tell us we're good to go, we'll replicate what they release on our Web site," said Jay Blanton, a spokesman for Gov. Steve Beshear.

We do have one clue, however. In a press release accompanying the transmission of the report, Beshear echoed what the Consensus Forecasting Group said yesterday: that the stimulus was a continued failure in Kentucky

In a news release, Beshear's office said federal rules determine how quickly the stimulus funds will be available. It said that means that "the bulk of funding that will actually create new jobs will be realized later rather than sooner."

Lots of deficit. No jobs.

Think the Obama administration will allow Kentucky's report to reveal that truth?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are farmers liable for the behavior of their goats?

Five counties in Kentucky average over four controlled substances per resident

Army Corps of Engineers hold hearings on mountain top removal

Knob Creek is back

Turfway revenue increases despite drop in wagering

Jobs available in Louisville

Beshear submits secret stimulus report to feds

Henderson County school tax hike

Ken Fleming proposes ethics reform for Louisville

October 12, 2009

Consensus Forcasting Group Reaffirms: Federal Stimulus Complete Waste of Deficit Spending

The Consensus Forecasting Group (CFG), a group of economists who estimate future state revenues, met this week to re-estimate state receipts for the current fiscal year which will end June 30th. They found that receipts will likely be $160 million short of their previous shortfall prediction.

With state revenues still in a free fall, a group of independent economists Monday predicted a $160.9 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, which began in July.

The decision came at a Monday meeting after the CFG heard that the state's sales and individual income taxes continued to decline from the previous fiscal year. The estimate of a drop of about $160.9 million from a May estimate of $8.29 billion is still just a preliminary estimate.

They forecast continued weakness for Kentucky's economy and tight credit:

Ginny Wilson, an economics professor with the University of Kentucky and member of the Consensus Forecasting Group, said it appeared that Kentucky's economy will likely continue to decline in the next few months.

"The sales tax declines will linger," Wilson said. "Credit will continue to be tight."

This matches CFG member Greg Harkenrider's earlier prediction that Kentucky's recovery will lag the country's:

The panel was told that personal income won't start its rebound in Kentucky until this coming fiscal year and employment won't begin a turn around until 2011. Harkenrider says employment "has been hammered" and improvement will lag behind the country's recovery from a recession.

Back then, we asked why Governor Beshear didn't stand up for the taxpayers when he knew the stimulus would be spending with no positive impact.

Greg Harkenrider is a (very good) economist in the Governor's Budget Office. His realization of the worthlessness of the stimulus is not new. He knew when it was being created, and we have no doubt that the Budget Office briefed the Governor and his senior staff about the impact of the stimulus.

If Governor Beshear knew that the stimulus was nothing more than wasteful spending, why didn't he speak out? If he knew at the beginning of 2007 that all the stimulus would do would increase the national debt, not improve Kentucky's economy, why didn't he stand up for taxpayers?

Now we must question why he has made no serious effort in three sessions to improve Kentucky's economy.

Geoff Davis (suddenly) Loves Tea Parties

Saturday's Tea Party in Burlington looks to have been a big hit. NKY.com's Amanda Van Benschoten covered the event with a liveblog:

Live blog

And took a couple of photos:

  1. First page
  2. Second page

The event was a success in more than one aspect: It also found US Rep. Geoff Davis singing a new tune:

When asked how he would restore America "to a path of fiscal responsibility", Davis said Congress should regain control over the growth of government.

He added, "Frankly, it's going to come down to the participation of Americans in elections."

"This movement needs to expand and grow to get the message out to Americans, and get people out to vote," he said.

Davis' mere appearance seems to be a complete about-face from his April interview with Leland Conway when he called Tea Parties "pie in the sky," and criticized the Club for Growth for not being partisan in our efforts to defeat liberals.

We're glad to see he's come around.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A late start for Columbus Day #617

Rep. Chandler blasts General Assembly

Sen. Joey Pendelton (2008 rank #28) wants to grow hemp

Beshear trying to clamp down on charitable gaming

Ronnie Ellis evaluates Beshear's reelection prospects

Silly politics prevents Richmond from saving money on 911 administration

ACLU speaks to EKU

Kentucky's first foam recycling center opens in Horse Cave

Stanford stays dry

McCreary library tax increases

October 9, 2009

Transparency For State Spending

As noted in our email yesterday, (sign up here) there has been a significant development in the push to publish details of state spending online.

Two lawmakers want the state to create a Web site where taxpayers may see all expenditures made by Kentucky legislators and by the executive and judicial branches of state government.

State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, and Rep. Jim DeCesare, R-Bowling Green, said they are working on details of a bill to create the site, such as the types of expenses that will be disclosed and the time line for reporting them. They expect to announce those details by Thanksgiving.

"In a perfect world, we would want as many expenses as possible" outlined on the database, Thayer said. "When the state writes a check, it should be posted online so people can see how their tax dollars are being used."

We've commended Rep. DeCesare, as he has proposed this legislation in the past, and Trey Grayson already posts his expenses on his own initiative. The addition of Sen. Thayer's leadership on this issue is appreciated because of his role as the chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee

While publishing this information -- which is a matter of public record anyway -- should be a no-brainer, Rep. Cherry is unwilling to commit to shining the sunlight on state spending:

Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton and chairman of the House State Government Committee, said he will have "an open mind" on the issue in the session that starts in January...

Perhaps such a sentiment should be expected of a legislator who ranked 78 out of 99 on our scorecard of protecting the taxpayer. We hope he is more bold as the legislature convenes in January.

Herald-Leader Pushes to Reduce the State's Debt By Expanding Its Debt

Following up on Alessi's half-story from Wednesday, the Herald-Leader produced an editorial today calling for more smoke and mirrors with the state's budget.

Unfortunately, UK and the state's other public universities and colleges are facing the bleak prospect of going through a two-year budget cycle without seeing any of their capital needs addressed. The reason, as the Herald-Leader's Ryan Alessi reported Wednesday, is basically that the state has maxed out its credit card.

SNIP

The thing is, it didn't have to be this way. Or at least some of the capital projects at the top of CPE's list didn't have to still be wishes.

In 2005, the House first passed legislation giving the state's public colleges and universities the authority to issue their own bonds (with prior legislative approval) for projects -- dormitories, dining halls, parking facilities and the like -- that generate sufficient revenue streams to pay off the debt. Because they had dedicated revenue streams, bonds issued in this manner wouldn't count against the state's debt service.

So, a couple of problems with this line of "thinking". (H-L editors get the word thinking in quotes)

First, as we pointed out yesterday, there is no shortage of construction funding for our universities. In fact, it has skyrocketed.

Second is the false conception that university bonding is not on the state's ledger. While it is true that the university has the capacity to charge students exorbitant tuition* to finance bonding, if the university were to default, the state is still on the hook. They are funded by the state, they are ultimately administered by the state, and their debt is the state's debt.

You think the state's debt is high now (it is) just wait 'till universities can bond whatever they want. And as oversight relaxes on these inefficient institutions, the risk that they issue a too-speculative bond increases, increasing the likelihood that the state will have to step in.

No, Herald Leader Opinionators, there is no such thing as free money.

* You think health care costs are increasing rapidly? Rep. Bill Farmer pointed out recently that the cost of a public college education has gone up twice as fast as the cost of health care over the last 30 years.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Beshear raises $460,000...

...will hold education town halls across the state.

Auditor keeping an eye on Richmond

Hoover's Furniture, another Dawahare enterprise, to close

Indiana faces shortfall

10,000 apply for 90 GE jobs in Louisville

Kentucky disputes US Treasury on US WWII bonds

Scorecard says Kentucky's health system 5th least efficient

Group compares Obama to Yasser Arafat

October 8, 2009

Two File For Senate 14

The Herald Leader confirms our earlier report that Rep. Jimmy Higdon has prefiled to run for the 14th Senate District, the seat currently held by Floor Leader Dan Kelly.

They also report that Jodie Haydon, a former Rep. from Bardstown has filed on the Democratic side., and that Sen. Dan Kelly has filed the same paperwork.

According to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance, contractor Jodie Haydon,who retired from the legislature in 2004, filed his intent to run with the registry on Wednesday. On the Republican ticket, Rep. Jimmy Higdon and Kelly have also filed paperwork to seek the seat that may become open before the 2010 election.

The report does not mention that Republican Leo Johnson has filed paperwork to seek Higdon's seat.

(Not Quite) Grants For Job Growth

This is why the stimulus is such a waste of money.

The stimulus, which was supposedly an adrenaline injection into the heart of the economy, has mostly been an injection into the heart of state governments.

Businesses are left staring through the window at stimulus funding -- that could have actually helped them create jobs -- being spent on "things that will help them." Instead of helping businesses hire more people, we've built them expensive sidewalks.

Today we have the headline:

Kentucky receives grant to spur job growth

Great! Right?

LOUISVILLE -- The federal government has awarded nearly a half-million dollars in stimulus funds to Kentucky to help create jobs and encourage economic development.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the $499,975 award on Wednesday. The funds come under a new program, the Strengthening Communities Fund.

The agency says the grant's purpose is to improve the ability of nonprofit organizations to promote the economic recovery of people with low incomes.

Half a million dollars to agencies that already exist that help low income people get prepared for the workplace.

These are good organizations that have a good mission. But we've got news for them:

You can prepare folks of any income level for the workplace, there are no jobs to prepare them for. Kentucky's employment is over 11%.

Well, maybe the organizations can just hire some folks themselves.

Ther

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Grants Monopolies

In a curious incident in Bowling Green, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has shut down all taxi services but one.

Here's the story of the screw-up:

On Aug. 19, 2008, 50 licenses were auctioned to anyone who was interested in obtaining them. The problem is that the advertisement for the auction, which was held in Bowling Green, indicated that the certificates would be sold individually.

This would have allowed companies such as Bowling Green Shuttle Service, Arrive Alive and other interested parties that don't have as big a fleet as Spears to buy a few certificates out of the 50.

But the certificates were sold as a block and Spears obtained all of them.

This is Spears' right, but it only seems fair to allow some other transportation providers the chance to buy the licenses they need, rather than selling them as one block of certificates.

In other words, the advertisement was misleading.

The end result is that companies such as Bowling Green Shuttle Service, which specifically provides rides to and from Nashville International Airport, are not operating.

The story lists four total companies shut down by the cabinet's interloping: Bowling Green Shuttle Service, Arrive Alive and Bowling Green Senior Transportation and Komfort Kabs.

We're glad the issue is reopened, because we wouldn't want to accuse the Governor of being flippant about eliminating jobs.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Still no interest from Governor Beshear to allow Carter County representation

Coal company sues protesters

All that rain is hurting Kentucky tobacco

Carroll County prescriptions skyrocket

Louisville Council blasts Abramson's ineptitude (again)

Keeneland expects record crowds

All kinds of financial reporting for Boone County elections

EKU students were threatened when they protested Chandler, hold free speech rally

Paducah's Executive Inn could be auctioned

Rep Houseman supports affordable energy

Illinois has $3 billion in unpaid bills

Laurel County school board awash in cash

Meet Governor Beshear's Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Logsdon

October 7, 2009

Universities And Building With Public Debt

Ryan Alessi writes today about Kentucky's Universities building plans and how their debt is impacting Kentucky's budget:

Gloomy state budget forecasts for the next biennium mean the legislature won't be able to approve many, if any, new public construction projects without potentially putting Kentucky's credit rating at risk.

So leaders at the state's eight public universities and community college system are bracing for rejection as they present wish lists full of large construction projects to lawmakers in coming months.

He says the Universities will have to begin considering alternative funding to continue with projects:

At the very least, they might have to rely on alternative funding schemes, such as the way UK is using $9.3 million in private donations and $9.3 in matching state Bucks for Brains dollars to pay for the Davis Marksbury Building for engineering research.

Unfortunately for this example, Bucks for Brians is funded with state debt. From the Budget in Brief:

The Budget of the Commonwealth provides $67,500,000 in General Fund-supported, taxable debt to finance the Bucks for Brains program, more formally referred to as the Research Challenge and Regional University Excellence Trust Funds.

So all this example provides is a different name for the state's debt that is used, not an alternative funding source.

Alessi also neglects to mention the rapid increase in construction funding the schools have received in the last few years. Here's Kentucky postsecondary capital funding for the last decade:

BudgetDebt
1996-98$83,310,000
1998-00$458,420,000
2000-02$354,947,000
2002-04$269,470,000
2004-06$626,747,000
2006-08$714,235,000

That's an average 150% increase in each budget. The original budget for 2009-10 called for $518,900,000 in debt for postsecondary construction (page 13), a 27% drop, but still 7% above the average of the previous five budgets.

Which is all to say, the universities aren't hurting for construction.

Traffic Congestion Is Good For Downtown Businesses?

Or so says Louisville Metro Councilman Tom Owen.

At issue is a proposal to disrupt the flow of traffic in downtown Louisville by making more people wait for left turns and generally drive slower:

Council member Tom Owen, D-8th, a member of the transportation committee, said two-way streets "slow people down and allow them to more broadly enjoy the ambiance and architecture of their neighborhood." He acknowledged that two-way streets can create more congestion and that converting one-way to two-way streets "will obviously be controversial."

And he's an advocate!

Further "advantages" of the proposal is the chance to spend a few million in conversion costs. According to walkinginfo.org, the cost of converting a street's directional capabilities can run from $20,000 to $200,000 per mile, "depending on length of treatment and whether the conversion requires modification to signals. If crossovers are needed at the end points of the one-way streets, they may cost millions of dollars."

Like President Obama's silly energy tax that is designed to make electricity too expensive to consume, the logic here is backwards.

Two-way streets are promoted because they increase congestion. But the results of worse traffic isn't better business; it's a less-attractive downtown, not to mention increased pollution from slower, idling cars.

Instead of spending millions to break what's working, how about filling some potholes?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We're back.

Ohio River barge traffic slowed

'Spit and Paste'-ing the roof together in Aberdeen

Newspaper commends itself

Recipes from the Governor's Mansion

Universities driving the state into debt

Louisville to increase traffic and pollution

Kentucky-Indiana bridge plans fail (yet again)

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The KY Club for Growth seeks principled candidates who are committed to the following:

* Free market principles
* Lowering taxes
* Reducing spending
* Decreasing the size of government
* Judicial reform
* Protecting property rights
* Expanding school choice
* Reducing needless regulation

We will hold endorsed candidates accountable for these principles by monitoring each candidate on a vote-by-vote basis. As a Club member, you will receive candidate monitoring updates and scorecards on a regular basis. Join us today.