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November 29, 2010

Field of 2011 Candidates Does Not Include Trey Grayson

We're late to the story, but Trey Grayson, the two-term Secretary of State and highest Republican office holder in the state has declared that he will not be a candidate for office in 2011.

In a statement, Grayson said, "After many hours of reflection, conversations and prayer with family, friends, advisors and others, I want to announce today that I will not be a candidate for attorney general -- or any other office -- in 2011. While I am not ruling out a campaign in future years, I am confident that this is the best decision for my family and me."

Trey Grayson has been a great Secretary of State for Kentucky, modernizing the office and streamlining everything from business filings to real-time posting of election returns online. At the same time, the budget and staff of the office have been reduced significantly. He has served the taxpayer well.

But now that one of the biggest Republican names in the state has taken himself out of the running, Republicans must find a challenger for Attorney General Jack Conway who was weakened by his poor campaign for US Senate.

In an interview with Ronnie Ellis, Grayson mentioned a few names as potential Republican candidates for the office.

He doesn't know who may be interested on the Republican side but he mentioned possible interest by Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington who ran against Conway in 2007, Andy Barr who served in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's General Counsel Office and lost a congressional race to Ben Chandler this year, Kenton County Commonwealth Attorney Rob Sanders or state Sen. Robert Stivers of Clay County.

These are all strong potential candidates. Rep. Stan Lee is consistently on the top of the Kentucky Club for Growth Scorecard and a "Defender of Economic Freedom". Andy Barr has proven himself as a candidate, raising over $1.5 million and effectively running a tie against career politician Ben Chandler. Rob Sanders is a strong conservative and a popular Commonwealth Attorney with a strong base in Northern Kentucky, and Robert Stivers is the long-time chair of the Senate Judiciary committee. Any of these candidates would have the ability to run an effective campaign against Conway.

November 24, 2010

One Labor Union Legislator Replaces Another at Helm of Labor Cabinet

The state agency in charge of enforcing the various labor laws in Kentucky is currently the Labor Cabinet. Steve Beshear elevated the Labor Department to the status of a Cabinet (although we're not sure the reorganization has ever been ratified by the legislature) and, in contrast to our earlier post about being supportive of small businesses, appointed a legislator who had long been in the pocket of big labor to head it.

Now former state rep. J.R. Gray has met various requirements to secure an outsized state pension and is retiring. But small businesses and contractors across Kentucky have no need to worry -- Gray is being replaced by another labor-backed former legislator. From the press release:

Prior to his tenure at the Cabinet, Sec. Gray had a long career as a union leader. He also served for 26 years as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, including Chairman of the House Labor and Industry Committee for more than a decade.

...

Gov. Beshear has promoted Deputy Secretary Mark Brown to serve as Acting Secretary of Labor. "I have great confidence in Mark's abilities, and believe his past experience will serve the people of the Commonwealth well."

Brown served fourteen years as a state representative, serving Meade, Hardin, and Bullitt counties from 1985-1998. He served as Meade County judge executive from 1998-2002. Prior to his service as Deputy Secretary, Brown has worked the past five years for Lusk Mechanical Services at Fort Knox. During his tenure in the legislature, Brown served on the Labor and Industry Committee, chaired the Job Training, Licensing & Apprenticeships Subcommittee and chaired the Budget Subcommittee on General Government, which included the Department of Labor budget. Brown also served on the KY Job Training Coordinating Council and is a member of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Union Local 502.

There is no word about who might replace Brown as Deputy, but labor-stooge Charlie Hoffman has been recently retired...

Governor Helps Market American Express

We actually think it's a really good idea, but we were a bit surprised yesterday to receive this press release:

Gov. Beshear declares Nov. 27 "Small Business Saturday" in Kentucky

Encourages shoppers to show their support for local, small businesses during holiday shopping season

FRANKFORT, Ky.-- In an effort to encourage holiday shoppers to shop locally, Governor Steve Beshear has declared Saturday, Nov. 27, 2010 as "Small Business Saturday" in Kentucky. "Small Business Saturday" is a national movement to drive shoppers to local merchants across the United States to support the local businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods around the country.

"Most people are familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but many shoppers forget about the large number of small businesses right in their hometowns that provide a multitude of great gift ideas," said Gov. Beshear, "More than 90 percent of the employers in Kentucky have 50 or fewer employees. These small businesses are responsible for thousands of jobs that form the backbone of our economy."

As the press release notes, 'Small Business Saturday' is a noteworthy marketing concept for American Express:

It's a great idea, and we're glad the Governor recognized it despite its corporate origins.

November 23, 2010

State Workers and House Democrats Looking Gift Horse in Mouth

Some House Democrats are pandering to the complaints of state workers about the furloughs that were implemented to help the state meet it's budget deficit and keep the state from laying off workers.

Back in August, even the Herald-Leader editorial board recognized the fairness and necessity of the furloughs:

Furloughs have become something of the norm in the private sector during this ongoing recession.

...

Painful and costly as they may be for employees, they are preferable to more of the layoffs that have also become a norm in private business.

Now, furloughs are becoming a reality for some public employees in Kentucky. With authorization from the General Assembly, Gov. Steve Beshear's administration is in the process of implementing a furlough plan for the executive branch of state government.

Now Greg Stumbo, who we recently pointed out is trying to run his House Majority into the ground, is saying the furloughs are a bad idea:

"Furloughs were a bad idea in retrospect," Stumbo told cn|2 Politics on Tuesday. "And that's a lot of what the short session is for, correcting those mistakes."

The furloughs have helped the state -- and the state workers. The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities points out that 46 states have cut budgets. This is their list of what has happened to state workers elsewhere:

At least 44 states plus the District of Columbia are eliminating or not filling various state jobs, imposing mandatory furloughs (time off without pay), or making other cuts affecting their state workforce. Such steps can make it more difficult for residents to obtain state services. Cutting staff -- whether on a permanent or temporary basis -- also may contribute to increased unemployment.

  • A number of states are imposing furloughs and/or pay cuts for some state employees. These include Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
  • Arizona closed down 11 Department of Motor Vehicle offices, resulting in layoffs of 115 employees.
  • Iowa laid off almost 200 state employees due to an across-the-board state agency cut of 10 percent.
  • Mississippi's Department of Human Services will lay off 124 workers, 115 of them from a community-based juvenile justice facility.
  • New Jersey has eliminated 2,000 state positions by encouraging early retirement, leaving vacancies unfilled, and laying off staff.
  • In recent rounds of budget cuts Maryland has laid off some 270 employees. Most of these positions have come from the Health, Public Safety, and Transportation departments.
  • Missouri laid off nearly 700 workers to address its FY2010 mid-year deficit.
  • The Tennessee governor announced elimination of over 2,000 state positions, about 5 percent of the state workforce. Some 1,500 employees accepted buy-outs for early retirement.
  • In Washington, a hiring freeze imposed by the governor in August 2008 caused the state's workforce to decline by more than 1,400. In January 2009 the state replaced the freeze with a cap on the number of budgeted positions at each state agency; the state's workforce is expected to fall by another 2,600 under the cap.
  • Virginia has laid off several hundred workers.
  • Additional states -- such as Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, plus the District of Columbia -- have laid off or announced plans to lay off state employees.
  • Hiring freezes have also been ordered in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

New Dem Senator Talks A Good Talk

The folks over at Barefoot and Progressive have posted a campaign commercial for new state Senator Dennis Parrett. Parrett is the only Democrat to defeat an incumbent Republican this cycle in Kentucky, and he defeated Sen. Elizabeth Tori who ranked a mediocre #15 on our 2010 Scorecard.

In the ad, he says "As State Senator, Dennis Parrett will be a conservative leader for Hardin County that we can trust to watch every dollar, like a family carefully watches their spending because Dennis knows the Hardin county of tomorrow won't be great by growing government, but by growing jobs."

The Kentucky Club for Growth looks forward to holding him to those words.

November 22, 2010

Where Do Your Federal Tax Dollars Go?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has your answer:

Click here to read more.

The Substitution Effect

Gene Williams and Art Shechet, partners in the downtown Lexington restaurant Natasha's, wrote an opinion in Business Lexington last week that is a great illustration of a fundamental economic principle.

Recently, Lexington hosted the World Equestrian Games, and downtown events brought great crowds. While that sounds like it would be a great boon to a downtown restaurant like Natasha's, it turned out to cost them business:

What is the immediate and long-range impact of large-scale, event-style promotion of our city that occurs in the downtown business district? During Spotlight, thousands of folks made their way downtown to free concerts and to picnic in a fair-like atmosphere. What may be surprising is that many restaurants and bars in downtown and contiguous neighborhoods saw significant decreases in sales during those 17 days. This likely was due to locals staying away from downtown because of street closings, concerns about crowds and parking, and changes in consumer spending patterns during the event-filled weeks. Indeed at Natasha's we saw, as we predicted might happen, our local business dry up, and if not for a very aggressive and successful outreach plan to fill our restaurant with visitor business, we would have suffered greatly. Of course, a number of restaurants did exceptionally well, such as some of the high-end places catering to well-heeled visitors and many of the bars and dining establishments with patio frontage right on the Spotlight stage locations. On the other hand, some traditionally popular restaurants reported some of the worst sales in years during the Games and Spotlight.

Another significant factor playing into the choppy sales was the diversion of consumer spending to imported competition of added outdoor vendors. We want to be clear: The abundance of outdoor vendors competing with existing downtown businesses during Spotlight and other regular downtown events, although providing some limited revenues to the city and auxiliary arms such as the Downtown Lexington Corporation, undercuts the businesses that are the heart and soul and tax base of downtown.

Natasha's is not only a great eatery, the restaurant is a very innovative small business that offers arts, entertainment and other public space opportunities at their venue to develop a loyal customer base. Yet none of this mattered as the city organized competitive offerings just a few blocks away.

November 19, 2010

Candidates for Agriculture Commissioner

Two new candidates for Agriculture Commissioner on the radar:

B.D. Wilson, Democrat from Frankfort has filed.

Rob Rothenburger, the Republican CJE of Shelby County is also running.

The Inefficiency of Public Golf

In Northern Kentucky, public golf revenues were declining, and the city decided to reorganize to save money. If a private course reorganized to cut costs, it would unlikely merit a news article. Since Kenton County Golf courses reorganized and cut four employees to save $100,000, it's a political scandal!:

Four employees who received layoff notices Tuesday as part of a re-organization of the Golf Courses of Kenton County were allegedly fired for political reasons - not the economic reasons that county officials cited - according to one of those fired.

"Scott Kimmich has had it out for me ever since I filed to run against him (for judge-executive)," said Dan Moening, an assistant manager at the county's public golf courses. Moening, an 18-year employee of the Golf Courses of Kenton County, said he was told Tuesday that his position was being eliminated, and that his last day of working for the county will be Dec. 9. In May, Moening ran third in a three-way Republican primary race for Kenton County judge-executive, behind eventual winner Steve Arlinghaus and fellow candidate Kimmich.

Sour grapes or legitimate complaint, this isn't a problem if the county doesn't own the golf courses.

November 18, 2010

Holsclaw: No Reason for Running for Office

In a recent interview, Ryan Alessi sat down with Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw to discuss her interest in running for governor. Mr. Alessi provided her 10 minutes of his time and repeatedly asked her to explain why she wanted to be governor or why she felt current candidates fell short.

First, she refused to contrast herself with David Williams saying that the press would examine his shortcomings. Next, asked by Alessi what problems Williams had not solved as Senate President, she again demurred and offered only:

"David is a legislator, I'm an administrator...I think that [Kentucky] needs someone who knows how to get in there and work for the citizens, and get down and do the job that needs to be done."

We had intended to watch the interview and summarize why she was considering running. Instead, here are a few more quotes from the interview.

"I think people are tired of elected officials who only talk it they don't work it"

"A legislator makes laws. They work with taxes. I am anti-tax."

"I don't believe that in the time the way our state is, and our state is really hurting, Ryan I see every day right now, just in our office, the number of foreclosures on homes, I see the repossessions on automobiles because people cannot, there are no jobs."

"Let me say this: I know what I don't know. And I can say this very openly and honestly."

"I'm not into are they Democrat of Republican. For instance, I believe that I have one of the best IT men in the state of Kentucky in our office. I found him. I did not ask him what party affiliation he was, and I bet you he's probably a Democrat."

We encourage you to watch the video if you'd like to learn more. Stepping into the political arena is a brave act for any individual, but we would advise Ms. Holsclaw to continue to develop her ideas until she has a better sense of what sort of leadership she is proposing to provide the state.

What Is The Tea Party Today?

Earlier this week we wrote about Senate President and candidate for Governor David Williams' stated opposition to allowing the public to vote for US Senators. The article we quoted included this sentence where Mr. Williams declared himself a "Tea Partier."

"In my statement, I am a Tea Partier," Williams said, adding that most Tea Partiers are "angry at the federal government at the level of taxation, at the level of expenditures and at its encroachment."

We think that's a pretty good definition of the Tea Party, but we also recognize that the Tea Party itself contains a variety of interests centered around concern about the expansion of government.

Josh Koch, libertarian and editor of the Kentucky Freedom Digest sets his standard as adherence to the principles of the Constitution:

If you really care about making change, you might consider NOT falling prey to everyone who claims to be a "Tea Party" candidate. I think Phil Moffett and Gatewood are constitutionalists, broadly. That's my standard...adherence to the Constitution...not party or manufactured "Tea Party" endorsement status. Make up your own minds, and tell these campaigns to quit claiming your movement's endorsement before you entirely lose your branding to cynical GOP hacks. I challenge Phil, whom I do respect, to rein in the rhetoric and make this about issues instead of labels, a battle of substance over empty rhetoric, a fight Phil can win. As long as Phil stays in a battle of trivial Tea labels, Williams can pretend to have the same credentials Moffett claims, a situation which is preposterous to anyone in the know.

As voters and activists, demand more from your candidates than just playing for UK or claiming the Tea Party label.

We think that's fine advice.

Alabama's Legislature Plans to Address Unsustainable Pension Spending

Kentucky currently faces a few daunting financial crises. In addition to a Medicaid shortfall of over $100 million, Governor Beshear has claimed to be facing a $1 billion budget shortfall every year he's been in office. Regardless of whether he creates a similar claim this year, the state is carrying about $10 billion in debt and faces an approximately $20 billion shortfall in state pension plans.

Alabama also faces challenges in sustaining its pension system. In reaction to spiking costs to sustain the benefits their plan offers, some members of the legislature have proposed scaling back benefits to keep them affordable.

But Bentley said, "We cannot let retirement and health care costs totally eat up our budget. We have to find ways to save money, and we're going to look at everything."

Bentley said that, if experts show the switch would save money, he would push for the state to ban pensions for newly hired employees and instead provide defined-contribution plans such as 401(k)s.

"We're going to look at that," Bentley said. "I'm not definitely saying that we would do it unless we look at it with some expert eyes and it would save the state money." He stressed that current employees and retirees would keep their pensions.

Will anyone elected to office or running for office in Kentucky be so bold?

November 17, 2010

Larry Clark v. Greg Stumbo - Who Hurts Kentucky More

Over at Page One Kentucky, Jake laid out the "Problems Larry Clark Has Caused Kentucky." He makes some solid points, like:

  • [Clark's] ego blocked passage - regardless of what he takes credit for now - in the regular session of unemployment insurance reform that could save Kentucky businesses $700 million over ten years. He then claimed it for himself during the special session.
  • His ego killed a bill that would allow Kentucky bourbon distillers to offer promotional samples of our state's signature product at events like the World Equestrian Games and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

But we think elsewhere Jake gives Clark too much credit:

  • Clark's ego (trust me - takes a big ego to know one) forced the General Assembly to meet in a special session that cost taxpayers some $63,000 per day. All to pass a budget that just barely keeps state government from shutting down.
  • His ego caused that session to last six days instead of the standard five it takes to pass a piece of legislation with our antiquated system.

As we have written extensively, in the last Regular and Extraordinary Sessions of the General Assembly, Greg Stumbo continuously and bull-headedly wrecked the budget process.

  • First, the House (with the Democratic super-majority led by Greg Stumbo and his appointed A&R chair Rick Rand) waited until March 11, 2010 to pass a budget -- the 45th day of the 60-day session.
  • The Senate turned around their budgetary response on March 22, seven legislative days later, removing the tax increases and reducing the debt.
  • Stumbo, though continued to insist on debt levels for projects for his Democrat comrades that Kentucky couldn't afford.

Jake certainly knows more about the inner-workings of the House Democratic Caucus than we do, but it seems to us that the responsibility for the failure of budget process rests squarely on the shoulders of Greg Stumbo.

In May, we predicted Stumbo's strategy would create problems for the Dems, and wrote:

Which is why we've always been perplexed that Speaker Stumbo would cause the budget process to fail just so he could have his own stimulus.

House Dems were eager to elect him Speaker. When they lose seats because of his horrible strategy, will they excuse him because of the national environment, or will they realize he is the reason state office candidates have an issue to run on?

We're still interested in the answer.

What If They Shut Down Government for A Day?

Actually, the state government was closed on Friday.

Did you miss it?

Kentucky's Strange Affair with the Medicaid Managed Care Company 'Passport'

Managed care in Medicaid has received a large amount of attention in the news lately, not just here in Kentucky, but nationally. Here in Kentucky, we've seen three instances:

The "Commitment to the Commonwealth"

First, the Kentucky House Republican Caucus pledged a 'Commitment to the Commonwealth' that included a provision to "Streamline Kentucky's Medicaid system to save money and produce better outcomes." At a press conference announcing the pledge, Republican Leader Jeff Hoover specified that they meant expanding managed care programs in Medicaid, and specifically Kentucky's "Passport" program. We commented at the time:

A sixth item -- Expanding managed care opportunities in Medicaid -- is indeterminate. Taking managed care statewide and allowing competition among managed care services might yield savings, but their proposal to simply expand the state's "Passport" program is not likely to significantly change costs and will require a dubious renegotiation of the federal waiver.

The Audit of "Passport"

A state audit of the contractor found that Passport spent excessively on lobbying, gifts, travel and salary for some high-level staffers.

The staff of Passport Health Plan, a managed care provider of Medicaid, "traveled frequently, stayed in luxury resorts, used limousine services, ate expensive meals and purchased numerous gifts - all with funding received from Medicaid and many without a clear business purpose," according to the audit.

...

State Auditor Crit Luallen said the spending of more than $240,000 on travel, gifts and meals -- mostly by two Passport employees -- was "extremely excessive."

...

The audit also questioned pay of two Passport executives. Shannon Turner...received on average $285,000 in compensation -- which included bonuses and consulting contracts from the University of Louisville. In addition Turner's consulting company received more than $354,000 from Passport's main subcontractor.

...

Luallen also questioned why the group was spending more than $1 million on lobbying and public relations over the past three years. Passport's two executives are registered lobbyists. In addition, AmeriHealth Mercy also spends more than $130,000 a year on lobbying. Luallen noted that it appeared that the group was using federal and state taxpayer dollars to employ 11 different lobbyists.

"This is basically state and federal money being used to hire lobbyist who lobby for their interests," Luallen said.

Expanding Managed Care

Finally, Governor Beshear has announced that he plans on achieving $142 million in savings over two years by expanding managed care services in Medicaid.

The changes include expanding the use of private contractors to run managed health-care programs outside of Louisville and are expected to balance the state's Medicaid budget by 2012.

Summary

So where we stand is a bi-partisan interest in expanding managed care (from the House Republicans and the Governor) but a single managed care option in Kentucky with questionable management practices. We stand by our earlier analysis that competitive managed care options could create savings for the state, yet competition does not seem to be a part of the proposal, just an expansion of Passport.

Come back in the coming days for more information on expanding managed care and analysis.

November 16, 2010

A Seemingly Large Hole in the 'Instant Racing Is Already Legal Pooled Betting' Arguement

The Family Foundation seems to have found a large problem with extending current laws allowing pari-mutuel to instant racing machines:

The foundation argued that the state, which in July approved regulations to allow tracks to take bets on previously run races, drafted the rules specifically to approve "Instant Racing," which the commission denied.

Instant Racing is a type of trademarked electronic gambling pioneered by Oaklawn Park in Arkansas.

In its brief, the Family Foundation cited patents on the games that describe each bet as "a unique event, so there is no pooling of other players' wagers on that event." The racing commission has argued the betting is pari-mutuel, just like live horse racing, because the bets are pooled.

We'll be interested to see how the usually ridiculous Franklin Circuit Court rationalizes around this one.

Rep. Bill Farmer Knows a Good Idea When He Sees One

Here in Lexington, County Judge Executive-Elect Jon Larson campaigned on eliminating the office of County Judge Executive in merged governments. In Fayette and Jefferson, when the county and city merge, the Mayor administers the entire county. The only duties left for the CJE is to appoint certain county positions.

In a merged government, the CJE is an unnecessary appendage. Rep. Farmer (2010 Rank: 10) has taken up this cause and introduced a bill to eliminate CJEs in merged government.

Farmer said he pre-filed the legislation in advance of the 2011 General Assembly at Larson's request. And he said he agrees that the position is unnecessary in merged governments. Larson was out of the office and unavailable to comment for this article.

"Why do we need a county structure in a city-county government, if it really is a merged government?" Farmer said in a telephone interview.

Like a threatened animal, the Jefferson County CJE-elect, Bryan Mathews, flails about trying to rationalize his job.

He said he still provides county outreach to areas of Jefferson County that feel underrepresented by merged government.

"I've got a lot of good things going on my end," Mathews said. "... I would hate to see (the bill pass) because that would reverse a lot of good."

Mathews also said that in the past, the mayor of Louisville hasn't always met with other county judge-executives and hasn't provided enough representation for the merged government in relations with other Kentucky counties. Having a judge-executive to foster those relationships is essential, Mathews said.

"Do away with (the office)? I don't think that's necessary," Mathews said. "You just have to carve out your own corner of the shop."

It reminds us of this scene from office space:


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November 15, 2010

The Seventeenth Amendment

Recently, a dispute erupted between the two declared Republican gubernatorial slates about who first had the idea to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment and let states appoint Senators.

Kentucky Senate President David Williams declared himself "a Tea Partier" on Wednesday and called for repeal of a constitutional amendment that took the power to appoint U.S. senators away from state legislatures and gave it to voters.

David Adams, campaign manager for Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett, said Williams was lifting Moffett's idea.

Williams suggested that it would provide state legislatures a better tool for input at the federal level.

Williams, a Burkesville attorney, told about 50 UK law students that most of the problems with the federal government stem from the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1913.

He contended it prevents state legislatures across the country from having input into the ever-growing role of the federal government with its various mandates, such as this year's health insurance overhaul.

But this is either a misguided interpretation of the idea of "states' rights" or a naive idea of the usefulness of state legislative input at the federal level.

It is wrong to suggest that Obamacare's mandates on states was not thoroughly discussed in Congress before the passage of health care reform. Governors from around the country testified, and Republicans in both chambers pointed out the many failures of the legislation. It passed regardless.

Would the outcome have been effected if the Senators were accountable to elected state officials instead of the voters? It seems unlikely. The results of the November 2nd elections are in part due to so many at the federal level voting to pass the health legislation regardless of the political consequences.

True accountability, and the best way to ensure local control, is direct election of the Senate by the people. And we exercised that control two weeks ago.

Now, Williams and Moffett, in an strange race to alter our Constitution, have written the first campaign ad ready to run against whichever of these two tickets wins:

"Williams and Moffett don't trust the people to elect their own representation."

You don't get to be a "Tea-Partier" by declaring yourself one then coming up with some Amendment to the Constitution. You do it by demonstrate your commitment to stopping spending and then sharing that commitment with like-minded individuals -- like those of us here at the Kentucky Club for Growth.

State Actually Attempting to Save Money at State Parks

Apparently, the State Parks System is actually feeling the bite of budget cuts. Historically, annual losses had been greatly tolerated. This year, we've read of interest in privatizing operations of the state golf courses, and now, reduced hours for Winter operations.

Kentucky resort park lodges will have reduced hours this winter as a cost-cutting measure during a budget shortfall.

The state plans to close lodges at 17 parks from 3 p.m. Sunday until 3 p.m. Wednesday. The reduced hours start Sunday and will continue through March 15.

Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Department of Parks, told The Paducah Sun that the move will save an estimated $1.4 million. He says the reduction was recommended earlier this year as a cost-cutting measure.

Here's to cost-cutting!

November 10, 2010

Private Golf Restructures While Lexington Keeps Losing Money

In the Danville Advocate-Messenger, we read of the challenges facing the Old Bridge Golf Course due to a decline in the rounds of golf played:

One of the owners of Old Bridge says Boyle County's only public golf club may be sold. Bruce Brown, head golf pro and general manager at Old Bridge, said membership is at its lowest in recent memory for the semi-private club, which has dues-paying members as well as public play.

"The golf business is about as down as it could be," Brown said. "We are in the process now of possibly selling the course or reorganizing in some way. We are also considering shutting down for the winter, which would be the first time we have closed for the season. No permanent decisions have been made."

...

Brown said the 18-hole course, located just outside the city limits of Danville off Ky. 34, has been hurt by some of the same factors that have caused the closure of around 100 courses a year nationwide.

Meanwhile, less than an hour's drive away in Lexington, taxpayers still lose $1 million each year propping-up six city-owned golf courses so that Lexington doesn't have to adapt to this nation-wide decline.

As we wrote in July:

Lexington deserves an alternative. The Council should support changes that allow Lexington golf to be a positive contributor to the golf experience in the Bluegrass. Whether that means realigning some courses, securing a private operator or simply operating as a self-sufficient enterprise, the goal should be eliminating losses to the taxpayer and creating a product that attracts golfers to Lexington.

Al Gore's Dream to Profit from Climate Exchange Dies

From National Review:

R.I.P.: Al Gore's Chicago Climate Exchange Has Died

Global warming-inspired cap and trade has been one of the most stridently debated public policy controversies of the past 15 years. But it is dying a quiet death. In a little reported move, the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX) announced on Oct. 21 that it will be ending carbon trading - the only purpose for which it was founded - this year.

Although the trading in carbon emissions credits was voluntary, the CCX was intended to be the hub of the mandatory carbon trading established by a cap-and-trade law, like the Waxman-Markey scheme passed by the House in June 2009.

Hat tip to Steve Manning

More DC Attention to Kentucky Governor's Race

Yesterday, we linked to a Washington Post article about the Maine governor's race and discussed it's implications for Kentucky. Today, Marcus Carey caught another relevant article in the Post, this one pointing out that Kentucky's governor's race is likely to be th emost competitive in the country. From BluegrassBulletin:

Chris Cillizza writing for the Washington Post says the Kentucky Governor's race in 2011 (1 of 3 nationwide) is perhaps the most competitive on the ballot next year.

Tea party member Phil Moffett (R) has already announced a bid; he's running on a slate with state Rep. Mike Harmon (R). Moffett's campaign manager is David Adams, who previously headed Paul's Senate campaign.

Meanwhile, state Senate President David Williams (R) and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer (R) are also running together. Williams and the tea party have butted heads in the past, and in an off-year election, the tea party could have even more influence, a factor that might bode well for Moffett. [WaPo]

Looks like Rand Paul's stature as the most prominent and talked about winner out of the TEA party movement this year will continue to focus attention on our little neck of the woods.

November 9, 2010

Another Candidate for Governor?

We feel bad about just reposting items from Alessi, but he keeps pushing the news.

The latest is a Quixotic potential run for governor by someone.

Republican consultant and former GOP official Mike Karem of Louisville said he doubts Senate President David Williams can win the governor's race and suggested Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw might be a better alternative.

...

Karem said someone like Holsclaw, who easily won re-election as the Jefferson County Clerk on Tuesday, could be in the mix as another Republican candidate. But Holsclaw would have to find a running mate to join the field of Williams-Farmer and Phil Moffett and his lieutenant governor candidate, state Rep. Mike Harmon of Boyle County.

Holsclaw confirmed in a telephone interview that she is giving thought to running for governor. Holsclaw agreed to be on Pure Politics later in the week. Moffett also has committed to an interview with Pure Politics. Williams has been invited to appear on the program as well.

Since we're not familiar with Louisville enough to tell you much about Holsclaw, we'll just offer Jake Payne's assessment:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. She's the one Republican in Kentucky who makes Richie Farmer seem like Mensa material.

Rep. Jamie Comer to Run for Agriculture Commissioner

We haven't mentioned this yet, but Rep. Jamie Comer (53rd District - Cumberland, Green, Metcalfe, and Monroe counties) has declared his intention to run for Agriculture Commissioner.

The office is open after current Commissioner, Richie Farmer, is term-limited out.

Rep. Comer has aimed to be a friend of the taxpayer and defender of economic freedom, and scored a 71 on our 2010 scorecard, ranking him #4 out of the entire House of Representatives.

Here, he talks with Ryan Alessi about bringing transparency to the office.

November 8, 2010

Tea Party Efforts in Maine Could Be A Model for Moffett Candidacy

In Maine, the Tea Party worked successfully to elect a Republican Governor, and now have their sites set on Sen. Olympia Snowe, reports Marc Thiessen of the Washington Post:

She wasn't on the ballot last week, but Tuesday was a bad night for Sen. Olympia Snowe. With conservative insurgents taking on GOP incumbents across the country, Snowe is a prime target for a Tea Party challenge in 2012. To fend off such a challenge, Snowe might have pointed to the failed candidacy of Christine O'Donnell in Delaware and warned Tea Party activists that if they want to hand a Republican seat to the Democrats the best way to do it would be to replace her on the ballot.

But that argument lost some of its currency when Tea Party favorite Paul LePage was elected Maine's first Republican governor since 1995. LePage campaigned on a promise to "shrink the size and scope of government" and "reverse the direction of the state" - and narrowly won the governorship on a wave of Tea Party enthusiasm that also swept Republican majorities into office in both houses of the state legislature. With LePage's election, Snowe can no longer claim that a conservative cannot win statewide in Maine - or that replacing her on the ballot would necessarily be electoral suicide for the GOP.

With Phil Moffett running for the Republican nomination for Kentucky Governor under the Tea Party banner, could a similar election transpire here? One key difference is that LePage benefited from a five-way contest.

After squandering an early 20-point lead, LePage narrowly won the governorship in a five-way contest with 38.33 percent of the vote - defeating independent Eliot Cutler (36.49 percent), Democrat Libby Mitchell (19.12 percent) and two other independents (6 percent). The more candidates who get into the race and divide the state's majority of liberal and moderate voters, the more likely a Tea Party-backed Republican can prevail.

Kentucky already has a significant Independent in the race in the Gatewood Galbraith-Dea Riley ticket. Gatewood has won 10% and 15% in two previous statewide elections, and can likely be counted on for a significant percentage this time. But his following may also overlap greatly with the Constitutionalist faction of the Tea Party, becoming a burden to rather than an enhancer of Moffett's success.

Williams Reelected Unanimously, Denton Drops Bid

As predicted.

From MyCN2 Politics:

State Sen. Julie Denton, a Louisville Republican, decided to halt her internal leadership challenge to Senate President David Williams just an hour before Senate Republicans were scheduled to huddle behind closed doors to vote on it.

Denton issued a statement from her private account saying she is "withdrawing my request to be considered for Senate President."

"I want the caucus to be unified in January," the statement said. "I will continue to focus my attention on serving my constituents and serving the Commonwealth."

There will be no retribution for Denton's bid to unseat the President:

Republican state Senate leaders insisted there will be no retribution against their colleague, Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, now that she abandoned her challenge to David Williams for the Senate presidency on Saturday.

Speaking to reporters after the Senate Republican caucus met behind closed doors, Williams said he was appreciative of the Republican caucus for re-nominating him for Senate president and that Denton was fully supporting the caucus' vote.

Bill Johnson Officially Files for Secretary of State

From the Secretary of State's website:

Name Bill Johnson
Party Republican Party
Date Filed 11/8/2010
Address 200 Georgetown Circle, Elkton, KY 42220

Johnson had run in the Republican primary for US Senate in 2010 before dropping out.

November 5, 2010

Senate GOP Caucus to Pick Senate President on Saturday

We could have written, "Senate to reelect Senate President David Williams on Saturday."

From Ryan Alessi:

Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, has called the Republican Senate caucus to Elizabethtown on Saturday to vote on the leadership team, including whether he or Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville, should be the next president.

The Republican caucus -- now with 23 members including independent Sen. Bob Leeper of Paducah -- will meet in a private caucus meeting before the Republican Party's state central committee meeting Saturday morning.

Williams has locked up support from a few senators who had been coy, publicly at least, about their votes, including Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville.

...

Thayer has been an outspoken supporter of Williams's re-election as president.

...

Several of the Republican freshmen elected early this week say they're committing to Senate President David Williams, as well.

Mike Wilson, who unseated Sen. Mike Reynolds of Bowling Green, told cn|2 Politics that Williams helped him with his race and he hadn't heard from Denton.

Incoming freshman senator Jared Carpenter of Richmond also said he appreciated Williams' support during his race.

Sounds pretty locked-up.

Representative Melvin Henley Lobs Drug Accusation Against Opponent After Election

State Representative Melvin Henley of Trigg and Calloway Counties (2010 score: 21), not content with winning his election handily, decided to accuse his opponent of illegal drug use to the Murray State News. Reporter Austin Ramsey published the audio:

Melvin Henley commenting on Corey McBee by The News.Org

 

Hat Tip: Page One Kentucky

John Kemper to Sign Taxpayer Protection Pledge

While the State Auditor doesn't really effect policy in this way, it is still a notable commitment. From a press release:

WHAT: Press Conference
WHO: Friends of John T. Kemper, III for State Auditor of Public Accounts
WHY: John T. Kemper, III will be publicly signing the Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) Taxpayer Protection Pledge pledging to the taxpayers of Kentucky that, as our next State Auditor, he will oppose and fight any and all efforts to increase taxes.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND: All concerned citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
WHEN: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 at 11 a.m.
WHERE: Kentucky Capitol Rotunda
700 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601

November 4, 2010

Maryland: Slots Kill Laurel Racetrack, Innovation Saves Monmouth

Andrew Beyer, Horse Racing columnist for the Washington Post, writes today on the impact of Maryland's slots legislation on the Thoroughbred Racing Industry in Maryland.

Maryland legislators, eager for state income, required significant fees of $28.5 million to acquire the rights to host slot machines. It seems this fee was too high for Magna Entertainment Corp, the owner of Laurel Racetrack, who neglected to apply:

But at the deadline for submitting license applications, the Magna Entertainment Corp. - parent company of the Maryland Jockey Club - declined to put up the $28.5 million payment that was supposed to accompany the bid. The state had no choice but to award slots to the other bidder, the Cordish Companies of Baltimore, which proposed building a large facility at the Arundel Mills mall.

So the slot machines will be set up by the parent company of Louisville's Fourth Street Live.

The fallout of slots in Maryland is that Maryland's Laurel Park will terminate live racing, and year-round racing in Maryland will cease:

The outcome of Tuesday's referendum on slot machines in Anne Arundel County will permanently change the face of Maryland horse racing. Laurel Park is likely to terminate live racing, perhaps as soon as Dec. 18, and operate only as a simulcast facility. The Bowie Training Center will be closed. Year-round racing will cease, and Pimlico will operate only a short springtime meeting centered around the Preakness.

...

Laurel Park is a money-losing business, and Chuckas said he could not envision a way that any owner could make it profitable without slots. As a result, the Maryland Jockey Club will use Laurel as a simulcast facility and develop the rest of the property.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Maryland, Monmouth Park chose to innovate, shortening the racing season and limiting it to weekends:

However, one track did radically alter its operations this year - and the results were a revelation. After two years of negotiations with its horsemen, Monmouth Park shortened its summer meeting and abandoned its traditional five-day-a-week racing schedule, operating only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, in order to offer significantly higher purses. Betting totals skyrocketed. Attendance was up. Enthusiasm was up. "We learned that less is more," said General Manager Bob Kulina. "If you put a good product out there, people will bet it. What I'd like to see is for all of the tracks in the mid-Atlantic to talk about doing something like this."

Just more evidence that innovation, not expanded gambling can better improve the sport of racing.

November 2, 2010

Go Vote Today!

If you need to find out where to vote GO HERE: https://cdcbp.ky.gov/VICWeb/index.jsp to visit the Kentucky State Board of Elections' website.

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