Monday, April 29, 2002

It's time to end budget stall

By Patrick Crowley,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Note to Kentucky House Democrats on the issue of public financing for gubernatorial campaigns: Let it go!

        The Kentucky General Assembly begins its second week of a special session today. This follows the three-month regular session that ended April 15.

        What has lawmakers still huddled in Frankfort after all this time? A fight over the budget, specifically a provision that would allow $9 million in tax money to be spent by candidates running for governor in 2003.

        The public financing debate couldn't be settled during the regular session — House Dems want it, Senate Republicans don't — so Gov. Paul Patton was forced to call a special session for passage of the two-year, $35 billion budget.

        “Forced”, however, may not be the right word since Mr. Patton, a Democrat, had threatened to veto any budget that did include public financing for the '03 gubernatorial election.

        So there is plenty of blame to go around for the budget stalemate: House Democrats and Mr. Patton for demanding that public financing stay in; Senate Republicans for insisting that it stay out.

        Okay, time for somebody to cry uncle, especially since the special session is costing taxpayers $45,000 a day. And that somebody should be Mr. Patton and his fellow Dems.

        Under public financing candidates can receive a 2-for-1 state match of money they have raised from contributors. In the 1995 race between Mr. Patton and Republican Larry Forgy that meant each candidate received about $1.2 million in tax dollars after raising an estimated $600,000 privately. Those levels would be adjusted next year when inflation is factored in.

        Because the 1995 amounts were relatively low for a statewide election, candidates had to take their message to the people. They couldn't buy unlimited amounts of television time, so they had to attend forums and show up at campaign stops all over the state as opposed to just running ads in the major media markets.

        But as Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, pointed out last week, money still poured into the races. It was just spent by political parties instead of candidates.

        And since the state can barely afford a raise for teachers this year it's probably a good idea to bag public financing for '03.

        House Dems looked bad last week when they used their majority to stifle debate over the measure, following leadership's call not to allow votes on any of the 46 amendments to the budget. Many of those amendments were filed by Republicans and would have gutted public financing from the budget.

        But instead of allowing the amendments to be heard House Dems played a rare parliamentary hand, blocking votes on all amendments.

        House Republican Floor Leader Jeff Hoover called the maneuver “the most arrogant abuse of power I have ever witnessed.”

        He was right.

        Cops for Garry

        Kenton County Attorney Garry Edmondson, who faces a challenge from lawyer Eric Deters in the May 28 GOP primary, has picked up some key law enforcement backing.

        Three Kenton Couny Fraternal Order of Police Lodges — 44, 1 and 55 — have endorsed Mr. Edmondson. The police unions don't typically endorse in contested primaries.

        “Clearly they felt strongly about this race in particular and wanted their opinions known,” Mr. Edmondson said. “People are ... frankly tired of the kind of campaign my opponent is running. But the police know the truth and they have spoken loud and clear. The voters will listen to them.”

        Mr. Deters pointed out that one lodge, FOP 20 in Kenton County, did not make an endorsement. He also said other candidates who have received FOP endorsements in past races have lost.

        “Maybe it's a good omen for me,” Mr. Deters said.

        Patrick Crowley covers Kentucky politics. He can be reached at (859) 578-5581, or e-mail


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