John Cheves of the Herald-Leader writes:
Gov. Steve Beshear is asking the Kentucky Personnel Board to exempt 81 political appointees from a new budget-cutting law that would abolish their jobs Dec. 31.
The appointees are midlevel officials across state government. Beshear did not submit their names to the board, just job titles and agencies. They include "policy advisers," who start with a $75,729 salary on average under Beshear, and "special assistants," who on average start at $61,980.
Some political opponents have jumped on this filing. We received the following from the Phil Moffett campaign today:
"Three years ago, Steve Beshear was promising not to raise taxes and to save money on everything down to the smallest lightbulb. After watching him raise taxes, explode the state debt, suck up federal bailouts and play refinance games with state bonds that would make Barney Frank blush, we are supposed to just sit by quietly while he kicks rank-and-file state employees off a lifeboat he has reserved for his political friends? I don't think so."
"And it doesn't escape notice that David Williams is being pretty quiet while all this is going on."
While he's pegged Beshear on his hypocritical commitment to responsible spending, the political appointee issue is less cut-and-dry. As we wrote in March:
Demanding a reduction of 125 appointees entirely from the Governor's appointees, over 16% of the total, will likely harm his ability to run his government. The number should be reduced -- everyone is tightening belts -- but the Governor should also be afforded the ability to implement his policy directives, and these appointees are often (too often, unfortunately) the only staff that have the willingness and ability to do that.
So let's look at the numbers. Cheves reports:
Last winter, in response to the state budget shortfall, the legislature tried to force Beshear to curb his political appointments. At the time, Beshear said the state had 826 full-time appointees. According to the most recent data available, that number had risen to 856 by Sept. 29.
In March, our post noted:
When you bore all the way to the bottom line, you find that Gov. Beshear appointed just 826 of the 3,635 non-merit employees in the executive branch on Jan. 31. (from Keeling's editorial)
This number is actually 26 higher than the previous administration, or 3.25%, so there's room to cut.
So here's the math:
Beshear is asking to spare 81 of 856 appointees. If he eliminated 56 of these positions, he'd simply return to the number of appointees in the previous administration. Judging the number of appointees this way, the real amount of positions reduced is only 26, or 3.25%. This seems entirely reasonable given the legislature's expressed intention to reduce political appointments.
Instead, he is clearly fighting to increase the number of appointees in state government.
This filing by Beshear is simply one more example of his lack of seriousness in reducing state spending.