Keeling: Not much to put on a Top 10 list for state politics

Herald-leader columnistDecember 16, 2012 

Larry Dale Keeling

FRANKFORT — Year's end is a time for highlight reels and Top 10 lists. In coming weeks, various individuals and/or organizations will step forward to share with us their lists of 2012's best movies, best songs, best books, best athletic performances, best this, best that and best other.

We don't even have to ask these experts to perform this list-making task for us. Quite the contrary, they'll pound on our doors demanding the right to give us their "bests."

Excuse me if that sounded a bit negative. It was just a touch of jealousy popping out of me because I can't get in on any of those folks' fun. I would love to join them. But I mostly write about Kentucky politics and state government, where lowlight reels and Bottom 10 worsts abound but highlight reels and Top 10 bests are endangered species.

Now, some of you might say, "Hey, what about Gov. Steve Beshear's blue-ribbon panel recommending tax reforms that would generate almost $700 million in new revenue immediately? After years of essential programs and services suffering from inadequate funding, don't these recommendations rate some kind of best?"

My response: Wake me when someone actually does something with this report they didn't do with the umpteen previous reports on tax reform issued over at least the past two decades. If it involves more than tinkering around the edges of the tax code, I will immediately award gold stars to every member of the panel. (Assuming, of course, some panel members and I remain among the living.)

Others might ask, "Aren't the proposals of the legislative task force on public pensions, including fully funding the actuarially recommended contribution to certain pension plans at an annual cost of $300 million-plus beginning with the next budget cycle, worthy of some positive recognition?"

My response: Given my response to the previous question about tax reform, wake me when the pension task force reconvenes and tells us which programs and services must endure even greater suffering in the future to pay for fully funding the required pension contributions.

If members of the panel dodge the question by suggesting the use of pension bonds à la Illinois, please call the Funny Farm to come and get them. And bring straitjackets.

"But wait," astute observers of state government might say, "Senate Republican leadership just underwent a sea change. Surely, the departure of former President David Williams rates some kind of best of 2012."

My response: Been there, wrote about the change in tone but not in outcomes and still don't have a clue why a governor would reward a blood enemy by giving him his dream job and the cushy lifetime pension that comes with it. So, wake me when Beshear, who has not always made the wisest political moves during his five years in office, gets something to show for his latest inexplicable gambit.

So, what other nominees do we have for the 10 best whatevers of Kentucky politics and state government in 2012?

• The General Assembly screwing up legislative redistricting so badly it got thrown out by the courts?

• What we learned about Richie Farmer's tenure as agriculture commissioner?

• Paying some firm in England to promote Kentucky tourism by suggesting visitors play "Roadkill Bingo"?

• Barron's rating Kentucky as having the fourth worst fiscal health in the nation?

• Another failure for expanded gambling and the subsequent "survival of the fittest" scheduling of meets at Kentucky racetracks?

I could go on, but I think you now understand my jealousy of people who get to put together highlight reels and Top 10 lists.

I have just one best to award this year.Best Capitol Hallway Comment of 2012 goes to the observer who told me the most astute statement about the General Assembly session was made without a word being uttered — when a penguin pooped on the floor of the Senate while the chamber was in session. (The winner's name will be withheld for protection purposes.)

Since year's end is not just a time for reviewing the past 12 months but also a time for looking forward to the next 12, I've already selected a best for next year.

Best Non-event in Kentucky Politics in 2013: No scheduled elections.

As a result of this non-event, we will all be winners because we can enjoy a full year free of televised wars of negative campaign ads.

Happy holidays. See you in 2013.

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