Kentucky Club for Growth
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June 30, 2011

Making a State Business Friendly

On Morning Joe, Governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker shares how the reforms he pushed are giving businesses and citizens greater confidence in Wisconsin.

Link

ATR Says: Kentucky Could Learn from Georgia

Tomorrow, Kentucky's state gas tax will increase 1.9 cents, as it increases every year according to a formula tied to the wholesale price of gasoline.

Americans for Tax Reform writes:

Kentuckians Could Learn a Thing or Two from Georgia

The data now says that Kentucky must increase the gas tax by 1.9-cents to 27.8-cents a gallon - even though prices have drastically fluctuated since.

With the federal tax, this totals over 46-cents a gallon in taxes. According to GasBuddy.com, the average Kentuckian pays $3.528 a gallon without the increase. As recent as 2008, Kentuckians were paying less than $2 a gallon.

Georgia has a similar story. They too normally use these monitoring techniques to automatically change their gas prices.

Georgians are paying an average of $3.471 a gallon. And, similar to the trends in Kentucky, Georgia's average gas cost in 2008 was below $2 a gallon. The automatic tax hike, set to take place on July 1, would increase this tax by 1.6-cents to 22-cents per gallon.

But there's one key difference in Georgia--their governor is a Taxpayer Protection Pledge signer, saying he will never support a tax increase. Governor Nathan Deal looks out for his people; he knows they are suffering economically, and he wants to do everything he can to fight raising gas prices and a higher cost of living.

Governor Deal has just issued an executive order stopping this increase in taxes.

What's the difference in Kentucky?

Governor Steve Beshear--you know your people are financially hurting, why increase their tax? Follow Governor Deal's lead and order that this tax be stalled or that it be flattened, so as not to hurt people when they can least afford it.

We also call on Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate David Williams to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge and to take a stand against the tax-and-spend policies of Governor Beshear.

Kentuckians, look to Georgia's lead--take charge of your state and say no to raising taxes.

Auditor Luallen Obfuscates Dealings at KRS, Tells Board to Shut Up

According to State Auditor Crit Luallen's recent report on Kentucky Retirement Systems, anything that was was wrong has passed and there's nothing to be concerned about.

Auditors said they found no evidence of such "pay-to-play" corruption in Kentucky. They also said they saw no evidence that placement agents' fees led to higher management costs for KRS. Deals involving placement agents cost about the same as deals without them, auditors said.

Luallen said she found no reason to act on phone calls that aides to Gov. Steve Beshear made to KRS, suggesting meetings with two of the governor's Democratic political supporters who worked on behalf of private investment companies. The phone calls produced meetings but no deals, she said.

The Herald-Leader first reported on those calls in May.

"There was no evidence of pressure to use specific firms," Luallen said.

...Auditors made 92 recommendations to strengthen controls and oversight. In short, Luallen said, the nine-member KRS board of trustees -- some of whom are elected by government employees, others of whom are appointed by the governor -- must ask more questions about the agency's investments and administrative costs.

But as PageOneKentucky.com points out, she didn't recommend that the Trustees let the public know when something untoward is going on:

From Page 69 of the audit:

We recommend trustees follow the KRS Board bylaws to refer all news media inquires to the Executive Director and do not discuss matters that affect KRS or the board generally with the Media

That's what we call a gag order, essentially.

If you want to know what the audit left out, Ralph Long (campaign manager for Gatewood) has a list here the he dubs a "whitewash". It's recommended reading.

No doubt, Governor Steve Beshear was thankful for the velvet gloves treatment by the Auditor:

I am pleased that she found that the substantial investments that support city, county, and state employees as well as thousands of retirees are secure.

However, as I suspected, there are improvements which can and should be made to this system. The Auditor's recommendations to improve transparency and accountability are well-reasoned and should be implemented quickly to assure the hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians who depend on this system that their retirement funds are handled in a wise and ethical manner.

I am encouraged that the new Board chair has already agreed with the audit's findings and has begun implementing many of the audit's recommendations.

Beshear's a slippery fellow. He didn't get more than one reprimand for illegal communication with his firm's attorneys in the Kentucky Central fiasco either.

June 29, 2011

Statewide Candidate News - June 29, 2011 Links

Attorney General candidate Jack Conway approves merger of energy utilities

Lt. Governor candidate Richie Farmer's wife seeks trial in divorce case

Governor candidate Steve Beshear publicly thanks Auditor Crit Luallen for not uncovering scandal in an audit of Kentucky Retirement Systems

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce won't let Governor candidate Gatewood Galbraith speak until he's already an elected official

The Courier-Journal says that 1.6% of discretionary spending in Louisville isn't important for Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson to document

June 28, 2011

Statewide Election News - June 28, 2011 Links

The courts may unseal a sexual harassment suit against candidate for Governor David Williams that US Rep. Ben Chandler found without evidence of criminal wrongdoing

Did Lt. Governor candidate Richie Farmer buy candy with a state credit card?

Governor Steve Beshear requests a waiver from no Child Left Behind, US Rep John Yarmuth gives up on Congress

Is it actually news that Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson is campaigning outside of Louisville?

Governor Beshear appoints another political friend to a state position

June 27, 2011

Economic Impact

Two analysis were put forward today estimating the economic impact of two big events to Kentucky.

While such impact is necessarily difficult to accurately estimate, drawing 100,000+ visitors to Kentucky does generate commerce.

First, an analysis of the World Equestrian Games was released:

The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games had an economic impact of $201.5 million in Kentucky, according to a study commissioned by the state.

"Direct" spending accounted for $128.2 million of the two-week event's economic impact. This includes guest spending at the Kentucky Horse Park, hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and retail outlets.

"Indirect" spending, such as money spent with suppliers of food, construction and other services, was pegged at $73.3 million.

The report found that $55.4 million was spent on tickets, food, souvenirs and other items at the event while $39.6 million was spent on lodging. The games also generated nearly $18.4 million in state taxes and nearly $4.6 million in local taxes, the report said.

Next, we have grand claims of the impact of the NASCAR Sprint Cup race coming to the Kentucky Speedway:

There is a lot riding on the event for the county, the speedway and the state of Kentucky.

The state has invested at least $150 million in the speedway over the past decade, under three different governors.

It has spent at least $88 million on road improvements in the area, from widening I-71 to building a whole new interchange. The state also awarded the speedway two rounds of sales tax credits worth up to $60 million.

The speedway itself has invested upwards of $100 million in the facility since 2009 alone, from new grandstands to improvements for fans like moving pit road closer to the stands.

...The annual economic impact is forecast at $150 million, based upon the impact of Sprint Cup races in other markets.

Up to 120,000 people are expected to pour into Gallatin County during the week preceding the race.

They'll spend money at the speedway, as well as on local hotels, restaurants, businesses, and even other tourist attractions.

Will the taxpayers' big investments yield commerce and jobs? We won't speculate.

But we do know one thing:

Kentucky's smallest county by area - 99 square miles - Gallatin County is a rural community of about 3,000 families and 8,500 people.

The face of the county hasn't changed much in the decade since the speedway opened.

There's a 78-room Ramada Inn built in 2003 that caters to racing teams and fans. An upscale restaurant, Jewell's on Main, opened three years ago in an historic building in downtown Warsaw.

Jewell's is a place you really ought to go if you're ever in the area.

NKY Tea Party Launches "Ax the Tax"

The NKY Tea Party has launched http://www.nkyteaparty.org/axethetax/ to help eliminate a taxing authority that offers duplicate services to other planning authorities and costs Kenton county residents $3 million each year.

From the website:

The Northern Kentucky Tea Party (NKYTP) is sponsoring a petition drive to place the status of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission (NKAPC) on the November ballot. Kentucky law provides this as a method for citizens to repeal the taxing authority of an area planning district. The goal is to secure the signatures of 18,000 registered Kenton County voters.

If you're a Kenton County resident, click here for information about signing the petition.

If you're not a Kenton County resident, you can share your support of their effort here.

Statewide Candidate News - June 27, 2011 Links

Candidate for Governor David Williams and US Rep John Yarmuth will participate on a "Kentucky Leads the Nation" roundtable on national education policy today

The Fix in the Washington Post rates Kentucky as the 4th most likely gubernatorial race to switch parties

Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson actually spent $214,000 from his slush fund, not just $185,000

As Governor Beshear gears up more managed care in Kentucky, AG Jack Conway begins investigating Kentucky's only existing managed care program

Current fundraising leaders are Beshear, Grimes, and Edelen and P'Pool, Crosbie and Comer in each of their races

June 24, 2011

Four Lexington Council Members Reject Unaffordable Committments

Last week, the Lexington City Council rejected several proposals by the mayor that would result in a more fiscally-responsible budget for Lexington.

An article in the Herald Leader noted:

Lexington's Urban County Council on Tuesday approved a budget under which some government services will be cut, including police escorts of funeral processions, but Mayor Jim Gray said council ducked hard choices essential to restoring financial responsibility.

...Council voted to bond the unfunded liability in the police and fireman's pension fund by $1.4 million rather than Gray's recommendation of $2.8 million, and council used some of the money for other expenditures. Council-at-large member Chuck Ellinger said council still wanted to contribute to the pension fund, "but we can do it in January."

Members also approved bonding -- in essence, borrowing -- $400,000 to carry out several projects.

These included $150,000 for disc golf courses at Jacobson and Coldstream parks, $100,000 for a handicap accessibility entrance at the Charles Young Center on East Third Street, $75,000 to build multipurpose lacrosse fields at Shillito Park and $75,000 to find a new use for Berryhill pool when it closes at the end of this season. Council member George Myers said neighbors have begun meeting to talk about the future of the pool and the park where it is located.

Last night the council approved this budget in an 11-4 vote.

The four votes against include Vice-Mayor Linda Gorton and Council Members K.C. Crosbie, Doug Martin and Diane Lawless. All four deserve kudos from Lexington taxpayers.

Their comments:

Vice Mayor Linda Gorton:

Gorton expressed concern Thursday about the council's willingness to bond $400,000 for new projects when the city's bond rating was down-graded last year for borrowing too much, considering how much cash it had in the bank.

Part of that $400,000 would go to build new lacrosse fields at Shillito Park for $75,000 and disc golf courses at Coldstream and Jacobson parks for $150,000.

Gorton asked why community organizations did not raise money to build those fields and golf courses in city parks. She pointed out that baseball supporters raised money for baseball fields, Lexington Youth Soccer Association raised money to build soccer fields and Friends of the Dog Park contributed money for dog parks.

Council Member Doug Martin:

Martin said the council "has not yet come to the reality that the shortfall in our police and firemen's pension fund, and our medical benefits are increasing by about $40 million a year."

He said the city can't afford the benefits it is committed to paying now much less hiring a new class of 25 police officers and paying their benefits. He called that "shortsighted."

Council Member Diane Lawless:

Lawless cast a "no" vote because, while there are "some good and worthwhile projects in the budget, we cannot afford them now," she said. The council has not had the political will to stop the out-of-control spending, "and we are broke," she said.

Council Member K.C. Crosbie:

Crosbie said she supported the mayor's vision of cost savings for government. "We can't continue to spend money we just don't have," she said.

This is the second year in a row that Gorton and Crosbie have opposed the budget.

Mayor Jim Gray has pledged to line-item veto additional spending items.

Mayor Jim Gray said almost immediately that he would exercise his veto power to cut certain expenses in the budget.

Gray said late Thursday that starting "tonight" he was going to examine the 2012 budget "line item by line item with a focus on what's right for the taxpayer, with a focus on fiscal responsibility."

Statewide Election News - June 24, 2011 Links

Agriculture Commissioner Candidate Bob Farmer says he really meant to be insultingly funny

Governor Steve Beshear announces road projects in Pike County (where Farmer isn't welcome)

If you walk with Auditor Candidate Adam Edelen in his four Independence Day Parades, he may give you a job and a raise

Candidate for Governor David Williams points to a study showing pension inaction will lead to a $1,400 tax increase on Kentuckians

Louisville Council Members question Lt. Governor Candidate Jerry Abramson's slush fund documentation

June 23, 2011

Pension Reform Watch - U of L Pres Champions Defined-Contribution System

Ryan Alessi at CN2 has begun to get legislators and other influencers of public opinion to go on record about the need for public pension reform in Kentucky.

First, he even got Sen. Kathy Stein to accede to the need for pension reform, although she opposes any real change.

Next, Sen. David Givens agreed that pension reform would be the most important issue for the 2012 session.

Now, former Paul Patton Budget Director and current University of Louisville President Jim Ramsay is championing reform that would convert convert Kentucky's public pension system into a defined-contribution plan for future employees.

Revamping the state worker retirement system to require future employees to pay into 401(k)-type accounts should be lawmakers' top priority in 2012, University of Louisville President Jim Ramsey said.

Ramsey, a state budget director for former Gov. Paul Patton, said the legislature should take the step of picking a "drop-dead" date to cut off the current pension system and any new hires beyond that date would be under the defined contribution, or 401(k)-style system.

"I know that's not popular," Ramsey said after the 9 minute mark in the video. "But that's what we're in. The University of Louisville and University of Kentucky are a little different than our other brother and sister institutions, either K-12 or higher education."

We're going to start keeping tally in advance of the 2012 session.

So far:

Reform is critical, in favor of creating a defined-contribution plan:

Sen. David Williams
Sen. David Givens
U of L President Jim Ramsay

Reform is necessary, but opposes defined-contribution plans:

Sen. Kathy Stein

Everything's fine, no reform is necessary:

Gov. Steve Beshear

Event to Discuss the Future of Medicaid in Kentucky

Medicaid constitutes a large and increasing share of Kentucky's total state budget.

A report to be released next week by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions finds that these increasing costs are "unsustainable" and examines market-based proposals that have been used in other states to control costs while improving health care outcomes.

The report's author, John Garen, Ph.D., is the Gatton Endowed Professor of Economics at the University of Kentucky and a Bluegrass Institute adjunct scholar. He notes:

"I think the evidence suggests it's time to turn to more fundamental reforms instead of piecemeal fixes.

"Medicaid spending has been a problem for quite some time, brought on mostly by its expansive growth over the past 25 years, and this problem will intensify under PPACA.

"Particularly troublesome is that past expansions of Medicaid have brought about only minimal improvements in the health of recipients, largely due to the fact that many new recipients enrolled in Medicaid instead of private insurance. Major reform is called for to focus the program on the truly needy while using taxpayer dollars carefully."

You are invited to attend a policy briefing for the release of the report on Wednesday, June 29:

"An Unsustainable Path: The Past and Future of Kentucky Medicaid Spending," will be released at a policy briefing on Wed., June 29, at 12:30 p.m. in Room 248 of the University of Kentucky's Carol Gatton Business and Economics Building. The event is being sponsored by the Bluegrass Institute and the BB&T Learning Laboratory on Capitalism.

One Way Kentucky Should Be Like California

California is a liberally-repressed state with a dying economy - not one to emulate.

But in one instance, California is an example, especially for our legislature:

Reporting from Sacramento -- State Controller John Chiang has decided to deny California lawmakers their pay for failing to produce a truly balanced spending plan, infuriating legislative leaders but pumping new life into budget negotiations just 10 days before the start of the new fiscal year.

Indignant Democratic lawmakers, having passed a budget on the June 15 deadline without input from Republicans or Gov. Jerry Brown, said the controller, who issues state paychecks, was engaged in an illegal power grab. Chiang said in his announcement Tuesday that aspects of the Democrats' budget -- which Brown had swiftly vetoed -- were incomplete and the plan therefore violated a new law that punishes the Legislature for late spending plans.

The impact on legislators' wallets could be severe. Until they approve a budget that Chiang deems balanced, rank-and-file lawmakers, who are paid at the end of each month, will be docked about $400 a day. That sum is the daily portion of their $95,291 salary plus a $142 per diem allowance.

Wonkette.com plays a tiny violin for the unpaid legislators:

Has California ever passed a budget on time? No, not really. But OH NOOOOOES was the collective scream from indignant legislators, WHAT WILL WE DOOOO to feed our wives and CHILDREN OH GOD THE CHILDREN.

From the LA Times:

"John Chiang just wants to sit there and beat up on the unpopular kids," Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake), who at 36 is among the youngest legislators, said in a statement. "I now have to explain to my wife and daughter that we won't be able to pay the bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense."

Poor dorky Mike Gatto, today he knows what it feels like to be a Regular Person.

So anyway, now it will take 11 years to pass a new budget in California instead of the customary 15. Haha, California is still broken.

(H/T - PageOneKentucky.com)

Statewide Election News - June 23, 2011 Links

Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson touts Beshear's accomplishments in the Purchase

The rest of the Democratic candidates were on hand as well

Candidate for Governor Steve Beshear spent almost half of his $5 million in the primary despite no opposition.

Attorney General candidates Jack Conway's and Todd P'Pool's fundraising numbers are in for the primary period.

Pike county CJE says Agriculture Commissioner candidate Bob Farmer not welcome in Pike Co.

June 22, 2011

Medicaid Hearing Reveals Little on Progress of Managed Care Contracts

In a hearing of the Program Review IJC, Governor Beshear's efforts to move to managed care contracts were reviewed, but little was discovered.

There are three big questions we've identified to define a successful effort:

Have Kentucky officials reviewed our last, failed attempt at managed care, and do they have the necessary ability to design a system and negotiate contracts that answer these identified shortfalls?

Do officials have the necessary knowledge and time to design a system and write contracts that will achieve savings through better health outcomes rather than simply cutting payment schedules?

At the committee meeting, Sen. Katie Stine attempted to seek these answers, and the administration's response was not reassuring.

Sen. Katie Stine, R-Southgate, asked Medicaid Commissioner Neville Wise if the cabinet has the expertise to negotiate with prospective vendors which have submitted proposals to manage the state-federal health care system for the poor and disabled and will part of the savings come from fewer state employees after the delivery of services is turned over to private vendors.

Wise said he, Cabinet Secretary Janie Miller and an outside financial firm will negotiate the contracts but the state will need to retain its current employees to oversee vendor performance and continue to determine client eligibility. He said they have the necessary expertise to negotiate contracts and to monitor the vendors' performance.

The third question is whether the new managed care system will create choices for participants in the form of multiple, competitive vendors offering services. While this has not been answered definitively, as we've written, there are positive signals.

He revealed, however, that in order for a vendor to have its proposal considered it had to make proposals for three types of geographic service areas: statewide; statewide except for counties around Louisville currently served by Passport's managed care system; and individual proposals for all eight service regions in the state.

That indicates there may be multiple vendors managing the service. Passport already delivers managed care to 16 counties surrounding Louisville and the state could negotiate a renewal of that contract. It could also award contracts to multiple vendors to manage care in different regions of the state -- or it could award a contract for service to one vendor for the entire state.

Statewide Election News - June 22, 2011 Links

Gov. Beshear raises an additional $134,000 for primary, David Williams raises $93,000.

Agriculture Commissioner candidate Bob Farmer is apparently a comic with Eastern Kentucky as the butt of his jokes.

And Farmer doesn't really see why his Kentucky-bashing jokes are creating such attention.

Attorney General candidate Jack Conway campaigns against candidate for Governor David Williams in WKy

Elaine Chao is helping Treasurer candidate K.C. Crosbie

Braun Research Poll Shows Potential for Close Race

CN2 released polling weeks ago, and we've failed to mention it on this blog.

Most of the numbers released could have been predicted.

Beshear leads Williams significantly. Incumbents lead challengers. Braun Research leans heavily towards name ID and optimism.

By that last sentence we mean that all of the results CN2 releases tend to show voting intentions that correspond more with name ID and tend to have higher favorability for all candidates than any other poll would show.

All of those things aside, the item we find most interesting is the right track/wrong track question:

In all, 41.4% of respondents said Kentucky is going on the wrong track compared to 40.5% who said it's going in the right direction. That's better than most polls about the direction of the nation.

There is no stronger argument that the incumbent will face a strong challenge than a plurality on Kentuckians saying that the state is on the wrong track. And as we mentioned above, this poll tends to skew optimistically.

In a race that really hasn't begun, with a challenger who is still unknown to 30% of the population, there is plenty of room for Williams to connect Beshear with voter's apparent unhappiness with the state of the Commonwealth.

However, in order to do so he will need more resources than he has on hand. The poll demonstrated that if Williams can find the resources, Kentuckians will respond to the right message.

June 21, 2011

Louisville Rep. Riggs (Indirectly) Criticizes Abramson (Hypocritically)

State Rep. Steve Riggs probably should have just kept quiet.

Recently, he decided to weigh in on recent reports about the Louisville Metro Council's use of Neighborhood Funds for questionable purposes. These funds are available to council members, not subject to oversight:

Councilwoman Judy Green handed out fruit baskets while wearing a green Santa Claus suit; Councilman Jim Peden's office fed volunteers barbecue for helping clean up McNeely Lake; and former Councilman Deonte Hollowell catered meals for senior citizens while running for re-election.

And it was all paid for with taxpayer money.

In fact, in the past 3 1/2 years, Louisville Metro Council members have spent more than $110,000 buying groceries and catering meals for district holiday parties, festivals, community meetings and other events — with no oversight or review by the full Metro Council.

Since the 2007-08 fiscal year, council members have been reimbursed for more than 1,000 invoices and receipts relating to food purchases, according to documents The Courier-Journal obtained under the state's open-records law.

At the same time, Lt. Governor candidate and former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson has had access to the same sort of unsupervised fund:

According to the report, Abramson made shocking expenditures such as $3400 at a fancy steakhouse in Washington, D.C., $10,000 on four different Derby Day brunches with elected officials and $2,378 for a football game celebration. An internal audit shows many of these expenditures had little to no documentation that would explain the public purpose for the use of the money. At least one Louisville Councilmember admits that the Council never saw the expenditures and certainly would have questioned them had they had the opportunity.

We can only assume that when Rep. Riggs criticized this sort of spending, he knows his comments apply just as well to his party's candidate for Lt. Governor:

Kentucky state Rep. Steve Riggs, D-Louisville, called on members of the Metro Council to improve regulations of their discretionary funds Friday, but warned if they don't make satisfactory changes then state lawmakers will have to step in.

"If the policy that they come up with isn't appropriate or has holes in it and doesn't fit the constitution of Kentucky then we would have no choice but to make changes," Riggs told WFPL News in a telephone interview.

The state lawmaker is concerned about a string of stories about council spending and specifically called out the practice of council members using their Neighborhood Development Funds to purchase food and other items for residents.

..."Providing a barbecue or party just for the sake of feeding constituents for free does not fit that definition," Riggs said. "If these events are allowed now, the council needs to consider changing their rules so that it conforms to the spirit of the Kentucky constitution and statute."

Such concern from Rep. Riggs is rich considering his normal disregard for the Kentucky taxpayer. Riggs scores consistently on the bottom of the Kentucky Club for Growth's annual scorecard, ranking 100 out of 102 in 2009-2010, voting for tax increases, reckless debt and increased regulation.

Maybe his newfound concern for how our tax dollars are spent will carry over into 2012. We won't hold our breath.

Liberal Kentucky Think Tank Demonstrates Beshear Job Loss

The Kentucky Center for Economic Policy is a nutty liberal think tank.

While their economic philosophy completely ignores the fundamental truth of the diminished utility that results when government spends versus the private market, even they are forced to recognize that Steve Beshear and Barack Obama have not created jobs.

From their blog:

Kentucky lost 6,000 jobs last month, and employment growth over the last year has made only slow progress toward addressing the huge gap in jobs created by the recession.

New job numbers show Kentucky still has 79,800 fewer jobs than it did when the recession started three and a half years ago. But the actual need for jobs is even worse, as the working age population has continued to grow over that period. That makes for a deficit of 128,500 jobs (see below).

Kentucky's complete lack of activity to encourage investment - such as tax reform, a repeal of prevailing wage requirements or making Kentucky a Right-to-Work state - is reflected in these numbers. They also reflect a governor whose only policy initiative has been the false commerce of casinos.

But at least that's one thing on which that liberal economic think tank and this conservative economic policy blog agree:

The economic policies of Beshear-Stumbo run Kentucky and Obama-Pelosi run country have failed to create jobs sufficiently.

Statewide Election News - June 21, 2011 Links

AG candidate Todd P'Pool raises an additional $20,000

AG candidate Jack Conway says states' lawsuit against Obamacare won't work

Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson says the issues he faced in Louisville are the same issues people face in rural areas

Abramson spent $180,000 in tax dollars without oversight

State Rep. Charles Riggs criticized the Louisville Council for spending the same way Abramson spent his $180,000

June 20, 2011

K.C. Crosbie's Record

Recently, we were taken aback by the Lexington City Council's vote to proceed with a budget that increases bonded debt by $1 million while ignoring the Mayor's recommendations to adequately fund pensions and make several spending cuts.

Lexington's Urban County Council on Tuesday approved a budget under which some government services will be cut, including police escorts of funeral processions, but Mayor Jim Gray said council ducked hard choices essential to restoring financial responsibility.

Mayor Gray was critical of the council's actions because of their choice to reject several of his cost-cutting recommendations.

Council restored $41,000 to keep Meadowbrook Golf Course open and increased the fee for playing a round of golf by $1 on all city links, a move anticipated to raise more than $100,000. Golfers played 107,565 rounds on city links in 2010, said Jamshid Baradaran, acting commissioner of general services.

...But most of the 28 city jobs scheduled for elimination in Gray's budget were restored, as was supplemental pay for 59 computer service employees.

...Council voted to bond the unfunded liability in the police and fireman's pension fund by $1.4 million rather than Gray's recommendation of $2.8 million, and council used some of the money for other expenditures. Council-at-large member Chuck Ellinger said council still wanted to contribute to the pension fund, "but we can do it in January."

Members also approved bonding -- in essence, borrowing -- $400,000 to carry out several projects.

These included $150,000 for disc golf courses at Jacobson and Coldstream parks, $100,000 for a handicap accessibility entrance at the Charles Young Center on East Third Street, $75,000 to build multipurpose lacrosse fields at Shillito Park and $75,000 to find a new use for Berryhill pool when it closes at the end of this season. Council member George Myers said neighbors have begun meeting to talk about the future of the pool and the park where it is located.

In the end, the twelve council members present voted to move these irresponsible changes forward to the next part of the process.

Several conservatives, including the Kentucky Club for Growth and Leland Conway have worked to bring attention to the budget, which you can comment on publicly at the Council meeting Tuesday at 3:00 PM.

Mica Sims offered another criticism:

Yes, I'm calling out KC Crosbie for this because she's running a state-wide race for Treasurer. She's never been for smaller government and less spending.

Mica's sentence is not true.

In fact, K.C. has been a lonely advocate for the taxpayer on issues on consequence.

When the EPA foisted sewer upgrades on Lexington that stuck all Fayette County ratepayers with doubled sewage rates in 2009, the city council voted to increase rates in perpetuity and index them for inflation so that they will increase every year.

K.C. Crosbie and Chuck Ellinger led the fight against this indexing and demanded that the rate increase sunset once the EPA-required construction was complete. The council saw the rate increase instead as an opportunity to squeeze more revenue from Lexington citizens and Crosbie and Ellinger were the only two votes against the proposal.

In the case of the sewer rate hike, KC was a lonely advocate for Lexington's taxpayers.

You can view the resolution and the vote by clicking more.

From the minutes of the February 28, 2008 meeting.

An Ordinance amending Article VI, Chapter 16 of the Code of Ordinances as follows: to amend Section 16-48 to increase disposal fees for sewage; to create Section 16-57.1 providing that all rates and fees set forth in Sections 16- 48, 16-59, and 16-60 shall be adjusted annually each fiscal year beginning effective July 1, 2010, in accordance with the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers; to amend Section 16-59 to increase fees for sanitary sewer rates for residential users subject to Schedule A from $1.78 per unit for the first four hundred (400) cubic feet of water usage per month and 2.16 per unit for usage in excess of four hundred (400) cubic feet of water usage to $3.50 through June 30, 2009, and $4.73 effective July 1, 2009, for the first unit, from zero (0) to one hundred (100) cubic feet of water and $2.64 through June 30, 2009, and $3.56 effective July 1, 2009, per unit for usage in excess of one (1) unit; to increase 3 sanitary sewer service rates for users subject to Schedule B from $2.16 per unit to $4.25 through June 30, 2009, and $5.73 effective July 1, 2009, for the first unit, from zero (0) to one hundred (100) cubic feet of water, and $3.20 through June 30, 2009, and $4.32 effective July 1, 2009, per unit for usage in excess of one (1) unit, plus increase the charge for suspended solids from 0.322 to 0.478 through June 30, 2009 and 0.645 effective July 1, 2009, the charge for ammonia nitrogen from 0.977 to 1.45 through June 30, 2009, and 1.958 effective July 1, 2009, and the charge for biochemical oxygen demand from 0.389 to 0.577 through June 30, 2009, and 0.779 effective July 1, 2009; to delete subsection (C) and to create a new subsection (C) establishing a thirty (30) percent discount program for qualifying senior citizens; to amend Section 16-59.1 changing the adjustment of fees to apply a fifty (50) percent adjustment to the entire bill amount for qualified customers rather than a one hundred (100) percent adjustment to rate increases only; and to amend Section 16-60 to increase sanitary sewer tap on fees was given second reading.

Upon motion of Mr. Beard, seconded by Mr. Blues, the ordinance was approved by the following vote:

Aye: McChord, Myers, Stinnett, Beard, Blues, Gorton, Gray, Henson, Lane -------------------------------------------- 9

Nay: Crosbie, Ellinger -------------------------------------------------------------------- 2

Statewide Election News - June 20, 2011 Links

Gov. Beshear reacts to Williams' challenge on Gitmo.

Questionable Auditor candidate Edelen raises cash with NKY lobbyists

Questions about Lt. Gov. candidate Jerry Abramson's slush fund

Gov. Candidate David Williams goes on Bill Bennett's radio show

Mississippi Gov Haley Barbour says Williams can win

June 18, 2011

Statewide Election News - June 18, 2011 Links

Gov. Steve Beshear's "Special Assistant" installed as Jefferson County Democratic Party Chair

Corrupt Auditor candidate Adam Edelen brags about 'flexing wallet'

Personnel board to investigate potential "burrowing" against the rules in Lt. Governor Candidate Richie Farmer's office

Candidate for Governor Gatewood Galbraith discussed the cost of higher education, medicinal marijuana and the legislative process in Bowling Green

Hotline calls mediocre poll a "Beshear Boomlet"

June 17, 2011

Another Abramson Mess (No, Not the Slush Fund)

While, as Jake points out at Page One Kentucky, RPK is calling attention to recent reports about Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson having thrown around $180,000 of taxpayer dollars on expensive meals and events...

According to the report, Abramson made shocking expenditures such as $3400 at a fancy steakhouse in Washington, D.C., $10,000 on four different Derby Day brunches with elected officials and $2,378 for a football game celebration. An internal audit shows many of these expenditures had little to no documentation that would explain the public purpose for the use of the money. At least one Louisville Councilmember admits that the Council never saw the expenditures and certainly would have questioned them had they had the opportunity.

We think the real Abramson scandal lies in his ties to ethically-challenged Louisville Council Member Judy Green. From Louisville.com:

Interestingly, on March 2, 2007, then-Mayor Jerry Abramson announced the awarding of a low-interest and forgivable loan, in the amount of $100,000, to Green Automotive, opening at 2105 Dixie Highway. The used auto lot, to open on the site of the former Perkins Motors automotive dealership, was owned by Councilwoman Judy Green's husband, James Green, along with Robert McAlmont and Olatungi Otywajuyemi. The Kentucky Secretary of State's Office reports that Green Automotive's corporate charter has been revoked. Apparently, the business never opened.

A $100,000 forgivable loan to a used car business to open on a used car lot? To a business that no longer exists? What sort of political deal did the former Mayor make here?

Abramson has a Chicago-like history of giving away taxpayer dollars to his friends. This report seems worth investigating.

Herald Leader's Myopic Climate Rattling

Recently, the Herald Leader editorial board attempted to exploit recent catastrophic weather events to promote their anti-growth agenda.

It has been one disaster declaration after another in recent years as floods, snow, wind and drought have pummeled Kentucky, disrupting business, destroying property and crops and endangering lives.

Not surprisingly, our coal-worshiping governor did not go on to make the connection being made by scientists: The documented increase in extreme weather is the predictable outcome of climate change brought on by the accumulation of heat-trapping fossil fuel emissions in the atmosphere.

While they readily admit no scientific basis to link the tornadoes to the theory of climate change, they attempt to sound scientific about it nonetheless.

Scientists have too little data to draw conclusions about tornadoes, but warm, moist air near the surface drives supercell thunderstorms which are tornado precursors.

They note that that they believe the world is warmer over the past fifty years...

Warmer oceans produce more evaporation; warmer air holds more moisture. The average temperature has risen by more than 2 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 50 years.

...which is pretty interesting considering headlines from the New York Times fifty years ago (courtesy of RedState.com):

Worrying About a New Ice Age
WALTER SULLIVAN February 23, 1969
For the past few hundred thousand years the climate of the earth has oscillated enough to produce a succession of frigid ice ages and warm interglacial periods. It has generally been assumed that these climate changes were gradual, but new theories that they occur with devastating suddenness are now being tested.

SCIENTISTS AGREE WORLD IS COLDER;
But Climate Experts Meeting Here Fail to Agree on Reasons for Change
By WALTER SULLIVAN January 30, 1961
After a week of discussions on the causes of climate change, an assembly of specialists from several continents seems to have reached unanimous agreement on only one point: it is getting colder.

Winters Since '40 Found Colder In Studies by Weather Bureau;
Data Indicate, a Reversal of a Warming Trend That Began in 1888
By WALTER SULLIVAN. January 25, 1961
Winters throughout the world have been getting steadily colder since 1940, according to a study carried out by the United States Weather Bureau.

ICE IN ANTARCTIC REPORTED ON RISE; Sheet Growing at Rate of 293 Cubic Miles Yearly, Soviet Expert Says; I.G.Y. DATA DISCLOSED; Hoarfrost Is Said to Fall the Year Around in Heart of Polar Continent; ICE IN ANTARCTIC IS FOUND PILING UP
By WALTER SULLIVAN Special to The New York Times. August 04, 1960
HELSINKI, Finland, Aug. 3 -- The immense mass of Antarctic ice is growing at the rate of about 293 cubic miles a year, a Soviet glaciologist estimates.

Statewide Election News - June 17, 2011 Links

Kelly Paul, wife of Senator Rand Paul, is taking a more active role in politics, helping Treasurer candidate K.C. Crosbie

Rep. James Comer, candidate for Commissioner of Agriculture, supports industrial hemp.

Attorney General candidate Todd P'Pool received raves in a stop in Hardin County.

Senate President David Williams, a candidate for Governor urged a Gitmo trial for the suspected terrorists arrested in Bowling Green

Lt. Governor candidate Jerry Abramson mentions his Mayor's Healthy Hometown Movement in an article about Kentucky allowing food stamps at KFC

June 16, 2011

Adam Edelen's Hypocritical Campaign

In a recent stop in Ashland, Candidate for Auditor Adam Edlelen hypocritically announced:

"We need to make sure that whatever tax dollars we sent to Frankfort are being used efficiently," Edelen said. "We can't afford to lose a single cent to corruption, inefficiency or waste."

His commitment to avoiding corruption and waste is new-found, considering his history of hiring political donors, giving them illegal raises, and failing to disclose land deals with them and lobbyists.

In 2008, John Cheves reported:

Beshear loyalists find a haven

Gov. Steve Beshear's Office of Homeland Security is becoming a popular entrance to the state payroll for his friends, Democratic political activists and donors.

This month, Ralph Coldiron -- who meets all three criteria -- started a $100,000-a-year job at Homeland Security as executive director of emergency telecommunications services.

The Director of Homeland Security at the time directly identified Edelen as responsible.

However, Preston said he took the job in June, so most of the appointees were chosen earlier by Edelen, who was Beshear's original homeland security director before becoming chief of staff this summer.

Ralph Coldiron, mentioned above, not only got a plum job, but also a plum raise.

Also from Cheves:

Beshear pal got $20,000 raise

Gov. Steve Beshear ordered a 25 percent pay raise for a friend and campaign donor who got a state job at the Office of Homeland Security.

Ralph Coldiron started this month as the $100,000-a-year executive director of the Commercial Mobile Radio Service Emergency Telecommunications Board, called the CMRS Board for short. The board collects user fees from wireless phone carriers to pay for improvements at local 911 call centers.

His predecessor, Kenneth Mitchell, made only $80,538 after about four years in the post.And the CMRS Board advertised the job with a salary range of $60,000 to $80,000.

Coldiron has a history with Beshear and Edelen:

On Thursday, Coldiron said he knew the job had an $80,000 pay ceiling when he applied. But he believed he was worth $100,000, and he told that to the governor's office in his application.

Coldiron, a longtime Democratic aide and political activist, has known Beshear for years.

He previously worked with Beshear chief of staff Adam Edelen at Thomas & King, a Lexington restaurant franchisee. Coldiron said he quit the company ahead of layoffs that were announced last month because of the weak economy, which put him in the job market.

Among his $12,000 in campaign donations since 1998 was money to Beshear and Edelen, who ran for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council.

But that's not all, Coldiron also was involved in a land deal with Edelen and a Frankfort lobbyist.

Cheves again:

Even as Babbage lobbied the Beshear administration last year, he and Edelen sent a stream of unhappy e-mails to each other -- and to another man, Ralph Coldiron -- about a large house the men built in Bourbon County for which they could not find a buyer.

They finally sold it in December for $530,000, far less than they wanted.

Coldiron in particular complained in e-mails throughout the fall that he was hurting financially and lacked a steady source of income. "I need to keep cash coming in the door," Coldiron wrote to Edelen on Oct. 6.

Weeks later, Beshear appointed Coldiron to a political job in the state Office of Homeland Security and arranged for an immediate pay raise from $80,000 to $100,000 a year.

"Thank you very much!!!!" Coldiron wrote to Edelen on Oct. 22, after Edelen confirmed that he had signed the hiring paperwork.

Coldiron also directly credits Edelen with the raise:

"I put that I wanted a salary of $100,000, so you'd have to ask Adam Edelen what happened after that," said Coldiron...

A raise that was illegal:

Coldiron -- after telling Edelen in an email that "I need to keep cash coming in the door" -- was given an $80,000-a-year political appointment by the governor, and then a $20,000 raise, which violated state pay procedures.

So much for "not a single cent" for waste and corruption!

Obamacare Unaffordable to States

Everyone apparently realizes that states will not be able to afford the federal health care reform law, including liberal public interest groups. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, many states are receiving philanthropic grants to assist the states to falsely make budget ends meet.

The California HealthCare Foundation is funding two consultants to work on the state's application for federal funding for a health insurance exchange, a cornerstone of the law that will allow individuals and small businesses to shop for coverage in a new online marketplace. It must be in place by 2014, and though the state was the first to pass a law authorizing the exchange, last September, it has committed few resources to actually building it.

"It is a sign of the times," said Marian Mulkey, the California HealthCare Foundation's health reform director.

Two years ago, as the state's budget problems deepened, the foundation took its first plunge into paying for state obligations, underwriting California's share of a federal health IT project. "Five years ago, I can't imagine our board saying we'd be prepared to put up the state match," she said, but it had become clear that California couldn't afford the expense.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, based in New Jersey, is spending up to $10 million over a year to assist 10 other states.

"States are just obviously struggling now because of the economy, so there's a great need to go beyond the academic papers and help operationalize" reform plans, said Heather Howard, a Princeton lecturer and former New Jersey health commissioner who is working on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to provide "technical assistance" to states, such as actuaries, who estimate medical risk, and consultants who can project the costs of proposals.

Robert Wood Johnson is assisting Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia. Political leaders in some of those states oppose the law, but requested the technical help, Howard said.

Statewide Election News - June 16, 2011 Links

We have accumulated so many links, we're going to post five every day until we catch up...

The Herald Leader wishes Gov. Steve Beshear were as willing to hike energy prices as US Rep. Ben Chandler.

Gov. Beshear proposes saving $1.2 billion on Louisville bridge construction by keeping it small and traffic-filled.

In Ashland, Auditor candidate Adam Edelen claims he will fight the sort of corruption and waste he generated himself in office.

Gatewood Galbraith stands as an alternative to the major-party candidates for governor on the issues.

Gov. Beshear says no more state worker furloughs before the election

June 10, 2011

Conway Fails to Defend Kentucky Again

As the EPA launched its war on coal, Jack Conway has sat on the sidelines, refusing to stick up for Kentucky's interests.

When states joined in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Obamacare, Conway refused to join.

Now, as the NLRB begins to attack unionized manufacturers who open new plants where fewer unions are present (like Kentucky), Conway is sitting out the fight again.

We mentioned Leland Conway's column on the NLRB's horrible activity yesterday.

A couple of weeks ago, President Barack Obama's National Labor Relations Board made a ruling that sent shockwaves through the American business community. The board said a private sector company couldn't build a new plant in another state simply because it was a "right to work" state.

Now, several states' Attorneys General have gotten together to fight the NLRB's job killing activity.

Attorneys general from more than a dozen states on Thursday weighed in on a lawsuit filed by the National Labor Relations Board, alleging that its complaint against Boeing Co. for building a South Carolina assembly plant after a strike by Washington state workers hurts states' abilities to keep manufacturing jobs.

Alan Wilson and Greg Abbott, the attorneys general in South Carolina and Texas respectively, asserted in a brief that "the NLRB's proposed action will harm the interests of the very unionized workers whom the general counsel's Complaint seeks to protect."

"State policymakers should be free to choose to enact right-to-work laws -- or to choose not to enact them -- without worrying about retaliation from the NLRB," the two officials wrote. "It is logical that some employers will simply avoid creating new jobs or facilities in non-right-to-work States in the first place."

Good and right.

Here's the list of states participating:

Wilson [South Carolina] and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott authored the brief, which was signed by attorneys general in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming. The brief points out that the attorneys represent both right-to-work and unionized states.

Where's Jack Conway? Bought and paid for by unions in Kentucky:

June 9, 2011

The NLRB Attacks Job Creation in Pro-Growth States

It's a week old, but Leland Conway's column on the out of control NLRB fighting to kill jobs and hurt an American company in South Carolina is a good read. Here's the start:

A couple of weeks ago, President Barack Obama's National Labor Relations Board made a ruling that sent shockwaves through the American business community. The board said a private sector company couldn't build a new plant in another state simply because it was a "right to work" state.

For several years, Boeing, the Seattle based aircraft builder, had been in negotiations with its union about expanding its plant in Puget Sound to build the new jumbo 787 Dreamliner.

The new plant would add several hundred high-paying jobs to the community.

Negotiations broke down when the International Machinists Union refused to sign a long-term no-strike clause.

Nervous because it had so much on the line with the new Dreamliner and this particular union had gone on strike four times since 1989 costing the airplane maker $1.8 billion in revenue, Boeing began to look elsewhere.

Eventually, it decided on South Carolina. If the unions didn't want the jobs the new plant would create, South Carolina was exuberant to get them. The plant has been under construction for two years now. As it is preparing to begin operations, the Obama administration is seeking to shut it down.

Keep in mind Boeing isn't planning on cutting a single job in Seattle; it just wants to expand and do what businesses do -- make a profit.

A judge will decide the case during a hearing June 14 in Seattle.

The NRLB's decision violates nearly every conceivable sense of corporate sovereignty and property rights. It smacks of Stalinism and centralized economic planning.

If the decision stands, it will mean the end of the rule of law for businesses and will cause many corporations to rethink future investments and perhaps even look to other nations from which to operate their companies. Who would invest in a country like this?

The stakes are so high, that it's possible Boeing settles the case in exchange for allowing some pro-union activity, like card check at their plant. The problem with that is, that such a settlement becomes a precedent, allowing the radicals at NLRB to implement card check at businesses across the country anytime, simply by alleging some sort of retaliation has taken place.

Let's hope Boeing stands up to fight this ridiculous federal power grab.

The Ohio Example

In Ohio, they've cut spending, cut taxes and erased a multi-billion dollar structural imbalance.

Gov. John Kasich said the GOP-controlled Ohio Senate's likely approval today of a two-year, $55.7 billion budget is "historic," although its version differs from the budget Kasich proposed and the bill the House passed last month.

"We will go to conference committee, but I don't anticipate any major problems in there," Kasich said following his address to those attending the American Institute of Architects Ohio Legislative Day at the Statehouse.

"We're all on the same wavelength," Kasich said. "There are some things that will have to be worked out, but nobody would've thought we were going to balance this budget, and cut taxes, and eliminate this structural deficit, and we are about to do it through the Senate today."

Kasich has long said the structural deficit he had to fill through his first biennial budget deficit was about $8 billion. The budget includes substantial cuts to education and local government funding, among other areas, but does not raise state taxes.

How's that for fiscal discipline?

June 7, 2011

UPDATED: In New Ad, Beshear Repeats Ridiculous 'Smallest Government' Claim

Steve Beshear has a new ad out.

We'll post it when it's available. UPDATE: Here's the ad. False claims in the middle.

For now, we have notes from the AP. In it, he describes some things he has done to focus state spending, and otherwise makes ridiculous claims, starting off his campaign with a highly dishonest ad.

Let's look at a few of the statements.

"I've furloughed state workers, including myself, cut my own pay 10 percent..."

We're not sure that he actually has not worked on the six furlough days, but he has forfeited the pay in addition to the 10% salary reduction. He owns the furlough, having vetoed legislation ending the furlough for state workers.

"...and sold unneeded state property and vehicles, including two airplanes."

Again, he did sell the planes.

"I've worked with both parties to balance budgets without raising broad-based taxes."

By "broad-based" he means income or sales taxes. But the new sales tax on alcohol he created and the cigarette tax increases affect Kentuckians pretty broadly. He raised the gas tax $0.04, effectively created a new tax on ATVs, extended new sales taxes to digital property. Those seem to be a pretty broad base of tax increases to us.

"Then, I slashed spending by over a billion dollars, creating the smallest government in 20 years."

Here's the howler. As we've shown, and as the following chart shows, the entire $1 billion reduction will be erased in FY 2012, at at no point in Steve Beshear's governorship was government spending lower than it was in 2005. He not only has erased any spending cuts he created, by the time his term is over, he will have presided during the three largest governments ever!

State Expenditures 2011

We can't wait to see what outrageous claim he tries to sell next.

How Interest Groups and Government Control of Health Care Costs Citizen Consumers

There are many variables we can discuss in the state's effort to reform Medicaid and introduce more managed care into the program. One discussion in a recent article on the transition caught our attention as a good example of the economic consequences of policy decisions.

Clay Rhodes, president of the Kentucky Pharmacists' Association, said pharmacists remain concerned about the potential impact -- especially on independent pharmacies that serve small towns and rural areas. The state has not ruled out allowing mail-order prescriptions for maintenance drugs, such as blood pressure pills.

Pharmacists oppose that because it reduces the opportunity for face-to-face discussions between patient and pharmacists and also because no mail-order pharmacy houses are located in Kentucky, Rhodes said.

"With mail order you are taking revenue out of state," he said. "Mail order can survive on the thinnest of margins and your rural pharmacy more than likely can't."

This does not really seem like a dilemma. Shouldn't Medicaid recipients have access to less expensive prescription drugs if they are available? The pharmacists claim that they are unable to compete with these prices and that access would lead to the demise of rural pharmacists.

But this also suggests that the pharmacists offer nothing of improved value to the customer. If the pharmacist offers a service that draws customers, than customers would be willing to pay a little extra for that added value.

The pharmacists contradict this idea, suggesting that they offer two added values to mail order prescriptions: face-to-face discussions between patient and pharmacists and the employment of Kentucky residents. Leaving aside the jobs claim for now, the pharmacists are saying that face-to-face discussions improve upon the economic transaction of ordering drugs, presumably because they offer customer comfort and potentially improved health outcomes resulting from their knowledge of the customer.

How can we evaluate the question of whether pharmacists improve health and service to the extent that they can charge more than their mail-order counterparts to dispense drugs? We're sure that there are studies that support the contention that they do, and studies that suggest the opposite.

The one sure way to determine it is to leave the decision in the hands of the customer. If customers feel that their health is improved by visiting a local pharmacist and feel that that improvement is worth the additional cost, then they will support the pharmacist and ignore the mail order.

If the pharmacist can not convince consumers that their services are worth the cost, then they will not remain in business.

Now, there are many complications to this example, namely that the government sets reimbursement rates for drugs and services for a significant percentage of the population. But that's how the marketplace would work if the government would let it.

June 6, 2011

Herald Leader Editorial Board's Blind Rhetoric

We are never truly amazed at the blind liberalism of the Lexington Herald Leader's editorial board. It usually leads to the endorsement of liberal candidates, and ridiculous statement like comparing carbon dioxide to slavery.

Sunday, they presented another gem of blind liberalism:

Asked after his speech how you could have an "adult discussion" and leave out tax increases, McConnell trotted out that old supply side voodo, [sic] insisting that increased economic activity would increase government revenues. (Note to Mitch: Check with David Stockman, Reagan's budget director, on how that worked.)

That's right. Complete "Voodoo" that government revenues increase when the economy grows. Common sense (and data) show that federal revenues track GDP. In fact, here's a chart from the Congressional Budget Office:

In fact, we can also show that increasing taxes does not necessarily lead to higher revenues.

The Mercatus Center graph below shows that, despite wide fluctuation in the top marginal tax rate, revenues have remained relatively constant.

(Heritage has a fancier version here.)

We don't know if it's publisher Tim Kelly leaving or Larry Dale Keeling's retirement, or general downsizing that's having an effect, but something has torn off the editorial board's common-sense filter.

Statewide Election News from Last Week

Governor Beshear is creating 'Cultural Districts' in Kentucky

Beshear praises Florida for cracking down on pill mills

Todd P'Pool is interviewed on DerbyCityNews.com

P'Pool is also interviewed on Red State

Jerry Abramson pitches Dayton on merged government

Bill Johnson writes that his campaign is gaining momentum.

Jack Conway calls for-profit colleges a 'Pain-Funnel'

Barren County Republicans support David Williams for Governor

Jack Conway's claims on brother's investigation contradict brother's statement

RPK calls out Conway over pension scandal

June 3, 2011

Bad Days for Jack Conway

It's been a rough time recently for Jack Conway.

His injunction request against Marathon Oil gets rejected for the political stunt that is was, remarkably by Judge Wingate who tends to support any ridiculous Democratic idea.

Conway brushes the rejection aside, attempting to claim credit for a gas price drop:

We are disappointed in today's ruling by the judge that denied our request for an injunction -- an injunction that would have required Marathon Oil to keep its prices at or below what it charged before the declared state of emergency. Despite the judge's ruling, I am pleased that gas prices have gone down a little bit since we sought the injunction.

And he vows to press ahead with a lawsuit:

I believe Marathon has engaged in price gouging and I plan to continue to move forward and aggressively pursue this case.

Despite a warning from the judge:

Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate said Conway didn't convince him that that he could win the overall case.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky GOP have been calling him out for tipping off his brother about a potential investigation:

"It is neither mean nor out of bounds for any Kentuckian to question how the Attorney General conducts himself when he learns a drug investigation has been compromised," said Robertson.

Additionally, Conway's campaign manager has been IDed as a key player in political payback meetings at the Kentucky Retirement Systems:

Conway's former campaign manager, Mark Riddle, was an EnTrust Capital employee for two years. He was paid to introduce the company to officials at the Kentucky Teachers' Retirement System.

Jake at Page One Kentucky conducts a closer inspection, identifying over $100,000 in campaign funds given to Conway by companies that profit from managing public pensions.

Jack received nearly $100,000 from money management firms and class-action law firms catering to public pension plans....

Hedge fund contributors to Jack...

Contributors affiliated with private equity, venture capital and real estate (folks seeking public pension funds)...

Contributions from investment managers...

Contributions from firms representing public pension systems, three of which have been implicated in New York's "Pay to Play" scandal...

Oh, and here's a tidbit for you to chew on: Since 2008, a KRS board member has been contacting the Office of the Attorney general (I've got several emails to back it up if anyone in the press needs proof). And you know what? The OAG has never responded to them and has not once chosen to do so much as preliminarily investigate what's been going down.

It's little wonder that Conway seems to be unexcited about hitting the campaign trail this year, where he seems to be more about making excuses than making a case to return him to offfice.

Here are his new positions.

- He promises never to run an ad he's personally uncomfortable with.

"It's obvious they want to re-fight the U.S. Senate race," Conway said, adding that reporters help the Republicans keep the issue in the spotlight by writing about it. "I'm ultimately responsible for that ad and I understand that. But I've also said to the people of Kentucky this statewide campaign will never run an ad that doesn't feel right in my gut."

- He's not fighting against Obamacare, but he's not fighting for it either.

But Conway said the issue is already on track to the Supreme Court and spending scarce resources won't affect the ultimate decision. The people of Kentucky, he said, would rather he use those resources fighting cybercrimes, protecting consumers and securing civil penalties due the state. He also didn't join a suit by about eight attorneys general in support of the law, Conway adds.

- He promises he's not for cap and trade at all anymore.

"That is a complete red herring," Conway responds. Conway was first tagged as unsympathetic to coal by his Democratic opponent in last year's Senate race, Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, over Conway's statement he would try to negotiate protections for coal in the so called "cap and trade bill" rather than simply oppose it. (The law was never passed.) But Conway later backed away from his original position and said he would never support legislation that harmed Kentucky coal.

- And he might be too busy with losing politically-motivated injunctions against Marathon Oil to raise money.

Conway said he raised between $125,000 and $150,000 in the last week of the primary which has not yet been reported and expects to raise$1 million for the campaign. He also wouldn't say when he would begin actively campaigning, saying he has pressing issues as AG which need his attention.

Such statements might lead one to wonder how much his Senate race loss was due to the Republican wave, and how much was a simple lack of interest on his part.

June 2, 2011

It's Not About Your Brother, Jack

In a press conference covered by CN2, Attorney General Jack Conway finally admits that he gave his brother a heads-up about a potential federal investigation against him.

In the discussion, Conway attempts to deflect the matter as an attack on his brother.

No one is attacking Conway's brother. Legitimate questions are being asked about how Jack Conway's position as Attorney General allowed him to become involved in a secret-but-leaked investigation. In the video, Jack Conway discusses that his brother as well as a political supporter gave him early notification about the investigation, apparently prior to a search warrant being issued. Additionally, he has stated that he met with his brother and the attorney together.

The question is not about Jack Conway's brother, but the potential that Conway's position of Attorney General gave him information and influence that would not be available to any other Kentuckian. In the public interest, such conflicts demand to be disclosed, not dismissed.

June 1, 2011

Replica Ark in Netherlands Successful

Is a full-size ark a secular tourist attraction? It is in the Netherlands:

Monday, April 30, 2007

SCHAGEN, Netherlands -- The massive central door in the side of Noah's Ark was thrown open Saturday -- you could say it was the first time in 4,000 years -- drawing a crowd of curious pilgrims and townsfolk to behold the wonder.

Of course, it's only a replica of the biblical Ark, built by Dutch creationist Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible.

Reckoning by the old biblical measurements, Johan's fully functional ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That's two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house.

Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold.

"The design is by my wife, Bianca," Huibers said. "She didn't really want me to do this at all, but she said if you're going to anyway, it should look like this."

A contractor by trade, Huibers built the ark of cedar and pine -- biblical scholars debate exactly what the wood used by Noah would have been.

Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and occasional help from his son Roy. Construction began in May 2005.

On the uncovered top deck -- not quite ready in time for the opening -- will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs and chickens, and goats. And one camel.

Visitors on the first day were stunned.

This is the second successful Ark Huibers has built. From the NY Times:

Actually, this ark is not the first that Mr. Huibers has built. He first began dreaming of an ark in 1992, shortly after a heavy storm lashed the coastal region north of Amsterdam where he lives. His wife, Bianca, a police officer, opposed the idea.

"She said no, but by 2004 I had built a smaller ark, 225 feet long, to sail through the Dutch canals," he said. It became a minor sensation. He charged adult visitors $7 to board it.

"More than 600,000 people came, in about three years," he said. He said he made about $3.5 million, enough to clear a profit of $1.2 million.

...

But if city officials do not see the ark as a refuge from rising waters, they do see it bringing salvation another way. Unemployment, Mr. Sleeking said, was "still a problem, it's higher than the rest of the Netherlands." Townspeople, he said, warming to the topic, "see the ark as an opportunity, in relation to the town." He added, "There could be hundreds of thousands of tourists, so for the city it would be a good thing."

With such a model for success, it's unclear why any tax breaks would be necessary.

Top Lawmakers Have Not Returned Special Session "Veto" Pay

According to an AP report on Fox 19 Cincinnati, several Kentucky lawmakers have not returned pay from Kentucky's special session.

The state's top two legislative leaders aren't among a growing list of lawmakers who have reimbursed the treasury for pay they received for a two-week period earlier this year when the General Assembly was in limbo.

Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo haven't shown up on that list that now includes 23 lawmakers who have refunded the state more than $61,000.

According to the article, other lawmakers who have not yet returned funds include Republican Senators Jack Westwood, Joe Bowen, Ernie Harris, Jimmy Higdon, Paul Hornback, Tom Jensen, Vernie McGaha, John Schickel, Jared Carpenter, David Givens, Ken Winters, and Brandon Smith; Independent Senator Bob Leeper; and Democratic Senators Denise Harper Angel, Jerry Rhodes, Dennis Parrett, R.J. Palmer II, Perry Clark and Dorsey Ridley.

House lawmakers include Democrats Jim Wayne, Brent Yonts and Jeff Greer.

Williams says he plans on foregoing 13 days of pay in the interim to offset those 13 days of pay, while Stumbo says he's given to charities.

Williams, along with House Speaker Greg Stumbo, say they made alternative arrangements for the pay they received during a two-week period when the House and Senate were in limbo. Many other state lawmakers have simply reimbursed the treasury for the pay.

Williams told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he has opted to work without pay for 13 days when he is in Frankfort during the legislative interim, a move that lets the state save more money by avoiding Social Security or retirement contributions.

Stumbo said last week that he gave his wages to charities.

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Kudlow's Money Politics
Manufacturers' Blog
Marginal Revolution
NTU's Government Bytes
Newmark's Door
One Man's Trash
PoliPundit
Politics1.com
Politics of Money
Poor and Stupid
Porkopolis
Professor Bainbridge
Raising Farrahzona
RedState.com
Rossputin.com
Sibby Online
South Dakota Politics
Sports Economist, The
Tax Guru

Kentucky Blogs

Bluegrass Policy Blog
Blue Grass, Red State
ConservaChick
Conservative Edge
Conservative Musings
CyberHillbilly
Elendil's Blog
Jefferson Review
Jim Clark's Muckraker
Kentucky Pachyderm 2
Kentucky Progress
KY Wordsmith
On the Right!
Osi Speaks!
Page One Kentucky
The Pure Investor
Vere Loqui

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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.