THE WAY I SEE IT: Our lackluster legislature is a disgrace
In Apr. 12 issue, Russell County News By Barbara Sharp Zimmerman, Columnist
Here we go again. Another Kentucky General Assembly; another miserable performance. Maybe even the worst ever.
Just why do we send these legislators to Frankfort? Evidently, Vernie McGaha thinks we sent him to protect us from menacing gay people who seem intent on messing up perfectly decent marriages.
Jeff Hoover spends a lot of time conferring with other representatives, but he will not vote to raise any kind of taxes – regardless of the fact that the state faces an estimated $900 million deficit over the next two years.
Gov. Steve Beshear doesn’t seem to know why he’s there at all. He had no legislative agenda, no plan to fix the problems left over from Ernie Fletcher’s misbegotten term, no idea how to deal with the legislature and certainly seems to be totally unable to lead anybody anywhere.
He wasn’t even able to get his signature issue, casino gambling, out for a vote to put it on the ballot for Kentuckians to decide. He seems to be stuck in the modus operandi of decades ago when he was Lt. Gov. to Gov. Martha Layne Collins.
Well, it doesn’t work that way anymore. The Senate and the House pretty much determine what happens these days. Insufferable State Senate President David Williams stubbornly refuses to let anything positive happen whatsoever.
House Speaker Jody Williams (whom I had as an instructor in college, incidentally) just can’t get any of his troops even to work with him. He hasn’t changed much since college, except now he sports a bad hair-dye job.
The result of this entire imbroglio is that nothing that should have happened got done. We won’t get a chance to vote on casino gambling, even though if passed as a constitutional amendment, it would have produced several hundred million dollars in a few years to help solve our financial crisis. Now that money can continue to go to casinos in Indiana, Missouri and other states.
And we won’t get a 25-cent tax increase per pack on cigarettes, much less the 70-cent increase that the governor at first didn’t want, then decided he did want. Either would have helped our financial situation. Seems the legislators are afraid of being branded as “tax raisers” or of making smokers mad, even though only 25% of Kentuckians smoke anymore.
One legislative wag opined that if we raised taxes on cigarettes, then smokers would quit smoking and we wouldn’t get any tax money from cigarettes at all. Well, so what? The long-term effects of people quitting smoking is better health, and better health leads to lower medical costs and the state saves big time on that.
What our state capitol minions did do was cut the budget for our schools, our colleges and our social services. U. K. says that school will have to raise tuition for each student several hundred dollars a year.
The legislature will take more of the state lottery proceeds, so lottery winners will get even less. It took the funds needed by various boards and commissions to regulate their own industries. The Department of Public Advocacy will have to cut 54 staff positions, including some lawyers, so low-income Kentuckians may not get the legal protections they need.
This legislature tightened everybody’s belts – except its own. When it came to that, well, miracle of miracles, the group came up with $10 million for themselves. And they did not raise taxes, although we really needed them to do so because of the impending deficits.
We voted these people into office to run the state effectively and efficiently, to take care of social services and to provide for those unable to do so themselves. To look out for our infrastructure such as highways and bridges. To help our state progress and grow. To get positive things done for the good of the Commonwealth.
However, since most of our legislators seem so unwilling or unable to do these jobs, perhaps it’s time to call them all home and send some others in their places. Let’s remember their substandard performances the next time we’re in those voting booths.
The Times Journal is a weekly newspaper issued on Thursdays. It was first published on October 13, 1949, by Andrew J. and Terry Norfleet.
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Russell County News is a weekly newspaper issued on Saturdays, and is mailed free to every address in Russell County, Ky. It was first published on February 1, 1913.
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