FRANKFORT — The state has spent more than $56,000 on rent, utilities and satellite television since March 2008 for a building used by Kentucky State Police near Gov. Steve Beshear's private farm in Clark County.
Police assigned to Beshear's security detail use the building when Beshear stays at his private residence instead of the state-maintained Executive Mansion, which is just steps from Beshear's Capitol office.
The state Cabinet for Finance and Administration pays $987 a month to rent the building, officials said, while state police cover the cost of electricity, water and satellite TV, according to records obtained by the Lexington Herald-Leader under the state Open Records Act.
When asked how often Beshear and his wife stay at the farm, Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson provided this statement: "Most recent governors have had private residences where they spend some of their time. The home of Governor and Mrs. Beshear is a working farm, which requires their regular attention."
Given the state's budget woes, critics of Beshear question why the state should pay an additional $56,000 for rent and utilities over three years when taxpayers already provide those amenities at the Executive Mansion in Frankfort.
"I don't think there is anyone that disagrees that a governor needs security, but in lean budget times, I think they need to take every step possible to be frugal with taxpayer dollars," said Steve Robertson, chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky.
Robertson said he wouldn't be surprised if Beshear is "traveling to and from Winchester every day on the state's dime when the taxpayers have established a residency for the governor in Frankfort."
Beshear, who is seeking a second term in Tuesday's election, frequently touts his cost-cutting acumen on the campaign trail and repeatedly has questioned spending by Senate President David Williams, the Republican nominee for governor, and his running mate, Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer.
"I think the Beshear campaign has forced this to be an issue," Robertson said. "They have spent millions of dollars in television ads being critical of (Williams' and Farmer's) expenses."
The Kentucky Democratic Party has filed an ethics complaint regarding the whereabouts of a $179 refrigerator that was purchased by Farmer's office using state funds. The refrigerator was at one time in Farmer's private residence but cannot be located now.
In advertisements, Beshear has highlighted Williams' decision to buy a $17,000 flat-screen television that was at one time in Williams' Capitol Annex office.
Lt. David Jude, a spokesman for Kentucky State Police, said that security for the governor is included in the state police's budget and that the $13,612 spent on utilities at the security house was part of that budget.
Executive security is not a separate line-item in the state police budget, so it's difficult to say how much it costs in total to provide security for the governor, Jude said. State police also provide security for other elected leaders, including Williams, House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo.
Jude said the agency has provided security for previous governors at their private residences.
"Nearly all modern-era governors have spent time in a private residence during their administration, and KSP has consistently provided security for those governors wherever those locations may be," Jude said.
In total, police spent $9,204.53 on electricity for the building near Beshear's home from March 2008 through September, including $362.91 in December 2008. The bill for satellite television during that same period was $3,665.62. The state spent $742 for water over the three years.
Rent from March 2008 through September totaled $42,441.