During Gov. Steve Beshear's three years in office, his administration has managed state government through eight rounds of budget cuts that collectively have reduced spending by about $1 billion.
And these reductions have been implemented without any significant disruption in the delivery of services to Kentuckians.
As House Speaker Greg Stumbo noted last week, Beshear "has a pretty good track record" of dealing with fiscal hard times.
So, it's difficult to take seriously the doubts expressed by Senate Republicans about Beshear's ability to find the savings to fill a $166 million hole in the next fiscal year's Medicaid budget. He's been there eight times, done that eight times and has a good plan for repeating his successes of the past.
The $166 million void will be created by moving that amount of money from next year's budget to the current budget to take advantage of the higher federal Medicaid match in effect through the end of this fiscal year.
No one argues with the wisdom of that move. The argument is over the best way to replace the money in next year's budget.
Beshear proposes to fill it with savings from moving some or all of the Medicaid program from a "fee for services" model to a "managed care" model. The experience other states have had with managed care suggests this is a reasonable approach that could successfully generate the kind of savings necessary.
But Senate Republicans — led by President David Williams, Beshear's likely opponent in this fall's gubernatorial race — ignore his past successes in dealing with fiscal crises and claim the governor has no chance of finding enough savings to fill the budget hole by moving Medicaid to managed care.
Not surprisingly for a group led by a gubernatorial candidate who wants to endear himself to the Tea Party movement, Senate Republicans want to cut, cut, cut. Their proposal includes limited cuts in the last quarter of the current fiscal year and across-the-board cuts in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Nothing would be spared.
■ SEEK, the basic funding formula for public schools which has been spared from cuts in the past, would take a $38.4 million hit this time, as part of a $47.4 reduction in spending on K-12 education.
■ Public higher education would absorb another $28 million reduction, no doubt setting off another round of tuition increases. Non-Medicaid programs in the Health and Family Services Cabinet would be cut by $19 million.
■ The judicial branch of government, which has already reduced personnel rolls by 235 positions to accommodate a 26 percent reduction in funding in recent years would lose another $8.5 million.
The list goes on and on.
These cuts aren't necessary. What Williams and Senate Republicans are proposing are cuts made just for the sake of cutting, just for the appearance of cutting during an election year when a Republican gubernatorial candidate with a record of voting for tax increases and earmarked projects funded by massive bond issues needs to get right with the Tea Party movement.
Beshear's record of managing the state through tough revenue times clearly indicates he is up to tackling that task again.
And Stumbo has suggested a possible compromise that would give the governor that opportunity while allaying the fears expressed by Senate Republicans: Approve Beshear's plan along with a backup list of cuts to be made if managed care fails to fill hole in the Medicaid budget.
That's as far as House Democrats should go.