Governer Beshear Could Be Making a Mistake

Really, using excess coal severance tax funds to help balance the state’s budget?

LOUISVILLE – Gov. Steve Beshear defended his plan Friday to divert about $17.5 million headed for coal counties to help address a $456 million state budget shortfall.

But the Democratic governor added that he was “open” to discussing the move with state legislators.

House Speaker Jody Richards and several state lawmakers and officials from coal-producing counties oppose using excess proceeds from the coal severance tax to balance the state budget.

Richards, D-Bowling Green, said it would be unfair to impact particular geographical regions of the state. Coal counties, particularly rural areas in Eastern and Western Kentucky, have come to rely on coal severance tax receipts as a major source of their revenue.

Let’s just talk about this for a second.

Has the Governor ever stepped foot in some of these counties in eastern and western Kentucky? Does he realize there’s a reason that Appalachia, in particular, is the most impoverished region in the United States?

We thought the idea of Beshear’s public tour was to make him seem more “in touch” with reality. And. Um.

What the heck are these people thinking?

Oh Snap Monday! Felner the Rainmaker

Dubya’s Final Eff You to Amurka. [Rolling Stone]

Attention Doug Hawkins: we have discovered the answer to your Mexican problem. Illegal immigrants say they’re all going back to Mexico because the economy sucks. And they say they will never return. Our white women are safe! [C-J]

Countdown proves, via a memo obtained, that this is a coordinated attack among Republicans to take down organized labor. [News Hole]

You can thank gay-hating Kentucky Farm Bureau for killing the cigarette tax increase. Not David Williams or any other Republican. [C-J]

What the heck is going on with this CentrePoint mess in Lexington? [Barefoot & Progressive]

All the mouth breathers are buying up guns like crazy in Kentucky. All because of that silly Barack Obama! Because it would be so terrible not to be able to buy assault weapons. Everyone needs a fancy assault weapon. [H-L]

Ugh. A “winter storm” is coming and Kroger is going to be empty. Look out for all the ladies wearing curlers if you have to make a grocery run today. They’ll be fighting for their lives to buy an extra package of hamburger and some white bread. [C-J]

Oh, look, known swindler Robert Felner has forced the University of Rhode Island to develop a system to better deter fraud. Felner was apparently a cult figure to staffers at URI. Weird. And he was a rainmaker. [The Providence Journal]

Trey Grayson on Beshear’s Budget Announcement

Secretary of State Trey Grayson just released a statement on Steve Beshear’s budget plan:

“I am not sure that there are any other ways to articulate that we are going to experience severe pain due to these proposed cuts. This pain should send a clear message to the Governor and Legislature that we must find a bi-partisan, long-term solution to this problem, not just a quick fix. Comprehensive tax reform that will reduce the tax burden on productivity, and thus allow our economy to grow, is the only real answer to this crisis. Until we face this fact, our Commonwealth will continue to bear these difficult decisions.”

We’re not sure “tax reform” and the “free market” are the answer to our problems right now. But one thing is certain: a bi-partisan, long-term solution to our problems is necessary. Now.

Beshear’s Plan: 70-Cent Cigarette Tax Increase

The governor’s just-released plan includes a 70-cent tax increase on cigarettes and doubles the rate of tax on other tobacco products. His plan would also protect Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK), the $3 billion in basic funding for elementary and secondary education, protect student financial aid and “limit” cuts to the rest of education at 2 percent.

The cancer stick tax increase would allegedly generate $81.5 million in a budget year. We’re surprised he actually decided to pick a side on the issue, rather than waffle like he’s done the past few weeks.

Additionally, the governor’s plan will limit state police cuts to 2 percent and preserve a new class of 60 troopers, furlough state employees to 3 days and use $40 million in one-time resources.

According to a document just obtained from the governor’s office, here are the basics of Beshear’s plan:

  • $147.1 million in spending cuts in addition to $432 million in reductions made in the last year. Under Gov. Beshear, the executive branch is the smallest it has been in 20 years, with 2,000 fewer employees than last year and nearly 600 fewer non-merit employees than under the previous administration.
  • $81.5 million this budget year by increasing the cigarette tax 70 cents, as well as increasing the tax on other tobacco products.
  • $8 million by furloughing state workers three days.
  • $40.6 million in other funds, such as transfers from restricted funds.
  • $178.9 million from the Budget Reserve Trust Fund or Rainy Day Fund, during this fiscal year. Currently, the legislature has appropriated $191 million of the $226 million fund for the 2010 fiscal year. Under Gov. Beshear’s proposal, increased cigarette tax revenues in the 2010 fiscal year – about $144 million – would be used to replenish the revenues expended from the Rainy Day Fund.

See the impact of budget cuts after the jump…

Read moreBeshear’s Plan: 70-Cent Cigarette Tax Increase

Wednesday Dept of Sinking Approval Ratings

That’s right. We’re not calling in gay today. Though, we have eleventy billion different meetings, so we’re gonna be slow. Does that count?

More people disapprove of Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning than approve. Imagine that. McConnell has a 47% approval rating, 49% disapproval. Bunning has a 43% approval rating, 44% disapproval. 4.1% MOE. Maybe Mitch’s would suck less if he actually showed leadership on this terrible bailout issue? [WLEX]

Because this isn’t really what we’d call leadership. [Wall Street Journal]

Oh, the magic. So effing magical. Go read all these fancy excerpts from the Blagojevich indictment. OMG. We are in heaven. A children’s treasury, indeed. [Wonkette]

Is T. Boone Pickens’ wind energy plan a ponzi scheme? [Alternet]

Has the state cut SAFE Patrol programs? According to the Beshear Administration, they can neither confirm nor deny.  Or refuse to, rather. WTF? What’s there to hide? [Republicans]

And three Health and Family Services ombudsmen have disappeared. No one is talking. [Bluegrass Politics]

We’re always going to wonder why the Commonwealth won’t make state workers who have take-home vehicles pay a monthly fee. But we’re even more puzzled about why the City of Louisville provides the director of the Louisville Zoo with a car. [Mark Hebert]

Really? He still doesn’t know if he’ll propose a raise in the state’s ridiculously low cigarette tax? And meeting with legislators (can’t quite call Larry Clark and Harry Moberly “leaders”) without discussing what he plans to do about the budget shortfall? Wow. It’s almost like Steve Beshear has absolutely no one on helping him on the public relations front. [Tom Loftus]

Just because, go read this story about AIG giving managers millions in bonuses. The bailout is awesome. [Bloomberg]

Oh Snap Monday! Everybody’s Broke & On Meth

Did you know that sagging pants promotes a lifestyle of gangs, drugs, crime and violence? Yeah, that’s the ticket, crazy Judy Green. Get kids to pull up their sagging pants and everything bad will just disappear! This is one of the most absurd things we’ve read in a few days. When will someone with common sense run against this woman so the West End of Louisville can truly see some progress? [C-J]

Wow. Former LEO editor Cary Stemle’s being quoted all over the place. [Clarion Ledger]

Why is Joe Gerth now writing about Christmas shopping? We’re not even kidding. Are budget cuts this severe? This is what happens when you kill off half your staff at a major paper. The political guy ends up writing about shopping. [C-J]

OH MY GOD. The cover of Today’s Woman? REALLY? Hahahahaha. Can’t breathe. Laughter. Ouch. [Today’s Woman]

Betty Butterfield on Election 2008. [YouTube]

Louisville and Lexington are broke. Broke like Gary Coleman broke. So what should they cut? Chime in. [The ‘Ville Voice & Bluegrass Politics]

All right for a ridiculous catfight over “clean coal.” Don’t you love how some people have to make it about “God” and whether or not someone loves Kentucky enough? [Barefoot & Progressive]

Smooth Move: Wasting Business Leaders’ Time

Steve Beshear’s doing a little media tour, but it’s hard to figure out what he’s trying to accomplish.

Setting the stage for his upcoming bad budget news? Maybe. After listening to his speech this morning at GLI’s Capitol Connection event, we’re convinced his message is simply that he’s got a lot of problems and no solutions.

He spent the first half of his talk explaining what we already know all too well — the state is screwed with its $456 million shortfall, and he’s got no plans to raise more revenue. That’s right. He’s given up on casino gaming and won’t push for a cigarette tax unless he gets to a point where he really needs it. On this point, at least, the folks at our table reacted with disgust.

So, what did Beshear say? That we’ve got to get in survival mode. He thinks Obama is going to get us some infrastructure projects. Oh, here’s some good news! A lot of other states are having the same problems as we are, and some of them are in worse shape.

He’s not going to abandon families and businesses that need help, and we’re not going to hunker down and hide. We think that means he’s going to try to keep investing in education, economic development and workforce training. In short, he was long on platitudes, short on specifics. His answer to the question about a cigarette tax was so typical Beshear-ian.

“We may get there (to the point we need it), and if we get to that point, it’s an option to look at.”

Seriously. After spending 45 minutes bemoaning the state’s economy, he’s wondering if we’re going to get to the point of desperation in which we’ll need money from a cigarette tax. This from a man who campaigned on a soapbox about leadership. We don’t know about you, but waiting to see if we’re going to need it, a point at which it will be too late to do it, isn’t the kind of leadership we need.

Beshear is doing a series of media interviews this week. Here are links to a few of them: WHAS Radio, Courier-Journal, WHAS-TV, Kentucky Public Radio. and Fox41.