The Richmond Register

Viewpoints

January 11, 2014

Session’s first week: The good, the bad and the ugly

FRANKFORT — The classic main theme from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” serves as appropriate background music while perusing this column about the first week of the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The Good: Pension reform is not dead.

After exaggerated claims about the feeble pension-reform bill passed during last year’s legislative session, I was concerned that even lawmakers supportive of additional reforms might not be willing to touch the politically toxic issue – especially during an election year.

However, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said during a Louisville talk-radio program on the eve of this year’s session that he was going to join Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, in an effort to make the Kentucky Retirement System transparent.

“Right now, taxpayers have no idea what the pensions are for any state employee or legislator,” Thayer said.

Thayer also said shining the light on the system – thus revealing previously heretofore unknown shenanigans to taxpayers and voters – would make future significant reforms more possible.

It’s hard to imagine what good reason House leaders have for dragging their feet on making the information regarding pensions available to the taxpayers who foot the bill.

The Bad: House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has launched an all-out populist policy campaign by making a whopping minimum-wage hike from Kentucky’s current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour his legislative priority.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover may have been more right than even he knew, labeling the proposal a “redistribution of wealth.” 

A new National Bureau of Economic Research study cites research indicating that a majority of the redistribution that occurs with forced minimum-wage increases is not from the wealthy to lower-skilled workers, which is how supporters try to sell the idea. Rather, it’s from families in – or nearly in – poverty to other workers in the same position.

In fact, forcing a minimum-wage hike on business owners causes some families to actually fall into poverty as family members lose jobs cut by employers forced to raise wages.

According to the Employment Policies Institute, 645,000 entry-level jobs were lost when Congress raised the national minimum wage by just 50 cents an hour in 1996 – and that was during a robust economy, something Kentucky certainly doesn’t have right now.

Does the House Democratic leadership really consider policies like raising the minimum wage by nearly $3 an hour the great answer to the Bluegrass state’s economic revival?

The Ugly: Anybody who believes in the freedom of speech – one of our most precious rights – must be disappointed in the way Gov. Steve Beshear concluded his State of the Commonwealth speech.

“Fueled by social media and talk radio, we’re losing the ability to listen,” Beshear said. “We’re losing the ability to treat each other’s opinions with respect and to overcome differences. My friends, we must resolve not to let that happen here in Kentucky. We must remember that we are Kentuckians first and Democrats and Republicans second.”

Are you kidding me?

This is how the governor leading a state with a tradition of vigorous political debate and the annual Fancy Farm spectacle – with its rank partisanship and where the ultimate goal is to literally shout down and find the most creative ways possible to demean your political opponents – ends his speech?

Perhaps the governor singled out talk radio and the social media because those are the entities most willing to staunchly and persistently oppose his big-spending agenda of expanding Medicaid and bringing Obamacare to Kentuckians’ checkbooks while failing to lead a genuine economic revival.

That should tell you a lot about the state of this commonwealth’s executive leadership.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com. Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org. 

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Viewpoints
  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Compromise is not that simple

    It’s tempting for a casual onlooker to wonder why the Democratic House and Republican Senate can’t make what on the surface looks like the obvious compromise on pension reform.
    The Senate passed a measure based on recommendations of a task force to move new employees into a hybrid, cash-balance plan but maintain existing defined benefits for current employees and retirees.

    March 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Frankfort plays ping-pong with public pension transparency

    Legislation that would make the Kentucky Retirement Systems transparent for those paying its bills has danced into the spotlight during the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
    Passage of transparency bills filed by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, and Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, would make the “names, status, projected or actual benefit payments” subject to our commonwealth’s superlative Open Records Act.

    March 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jack Strauss-BW.jpg The case of the ghostly neighbor

    Wilbur lived in a world of fears. Everything frightened him. The full extent of his courage was to admit that he had none.
    Noises in the middle of the night, his own shadow creeping up on him and, most of all, black cats scared the wits out of him.
    So, picture his chagrin, one day, when he came home from vacation only to discover that a mausoleum had been erected on property adjacent to his home.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • Provisional concealed-carry law passes Senate unanimously

    Things are staying busy in Frankfort. Many bills are making their way onto the Senate floor from various committees. This past week several important pieces of legislation were debated and passed.
    I am particularly proud of the success we had in advocating for Kentuckians’ Second Amendment rights.
    I introduced Senate Bill 106 to allow anyone who has been granted an emergency protective or domestic violence order to receive a provisional CCDW permit from the Kentucky State Police in one business day. In some of these cases, victims need this type of protection as quickly as possible.

    March 8, 2014

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg 50 years makes a world of difference

    I wasn’t in Frankfort on March 5, 1964, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Jackie Robinson led 10,000 on a march to the state Capitol in support of a public accommodations law.
    But a few months later, I stood in front of the “Music Hall,” site of the Glasgow Junior High School located on a street named Liberty, and watched black kids “walk up the hill” of College Street on the first day of integrated schools in Glasgow.

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • 02.23 Mike Duncan mug.jpg Coal has kept Kentuckians warm this winter

    This winter, temperatures across the country dipped to historic lows. Here in our home state of Kentucky, the near-arctic climate caused increased power demand which resulted in an incredible strain on the electric grid and rising energy costs.

    March 6, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Waters.JPG Protecting citizens’ data is a no-brainer

    Target Corp. is learning the hard way: The price is steep for retailers who don’t protect customers’ sensitive financial information.
    Target’s profits fell a whopping 50 percent during its fourth quarter of 2013 as the result of a massive security breach involving as many as 110 million of its customers’ credit- and debit-card accounts, which began the day before Thanksgiving and extended throughout much of the holiday shopping season.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Making plans for spring planting

    My brother Keith (Keeter) probably planted peas on one of those warm days last week, and I would not be at all surprised to find out that brother Steve did likewise to try to be the first two fellows in Letcher County to actually be digging the soil in their 2014 gardens.
    Keeter’s father-in-law, the late Dock Mitchell, used to get my brother to drive him a 50-mile round trip to get pea seeds and potting soil for early February planting. Dock raised mammoth melting sugar snow peas and sugar snaps around every fence on the place. 

    February 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ronnie-Ellis.jpg Cynicism, optimism both on display in Frankfort

    Those who spend little time in Kentucky’s Capitol and who read columns by cynics who cover it should be forgiven their disillusionment about how the people’s business is conducted.

    February 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ike Adams Even Scrooge would enjoy library mystery

    Saturday afternoons and evenings are usually down time for Loretta and me.
    We simply don’t get out much after we’ve used up the movie gift certificates the kids gave us for Christmas. That means we mostly go to the movies to avoid guilt trips because our kids do work hard for their money.

    February 20, 2014 1 Photo

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