State Senate President David Williams and Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer recently provided Kentucky voters with a few snapshots of what kind of leadership the Republicans might provide if their gubernatorial slate proves successful in November. Suffice it to say the photo exhibit compiled from these snapshots proved somewhat less than inspirational.
Williams' recent displays of leadership featured a combination of ego-driven childish pique and the never-far-from-the-surface dictatorial streak that earned him his "Bully from Burkesville" nickname.
Ego, pure ego, explains Williams' piquish "This game ain't over until I say it's over" stance on the recent Medicaid special session.
Ironically, the special session was made necessary by Williams' equally ego-driven and equally piquish decision to shut down this year's regular General Assembly session rather than continue negotiating a Medicaid budget fix during a scheduled veto recess.
Even more ironically, the 13 days Williams tacked on to the special session after the House adjourned for good amounted to the same kind of veto recess he refused to allow at the end of the regular session.
More important, once the House adjourned for good, Williams knew nothing constructive could happen during the 13 days he spent getting over his snit. But non-productive days counting the same as productive days on the legislative calendar, lawmakers in both General Assembly houses remained on the time clock until the Senate finally gaveled out of session April 6.
Checks, including a portion the $580,000 in legislative pay for those extra days, were issued recently, which brought out the bully in Williams. Explaining to The Courier-Journal that all members of the Senate would be returning the pay they received for the 13 days, Williams said, "Every one of them will make the treasury whole, make the taxpayer whole. They really have no choice. ... Every member of the Senate will participate, and I have the authority to make sure they do."
On the issue itself, Williams is right, of course. No senator or representative should collect pay for those 13 days. And House Democratic leaders are encouraging members of that chamber to either return their pay or, as has sometimes been the practice, donate it to charity or deduct it from future expenses.
However, House leaders' calls for legislators to do the right thing have been couched in considerably more diplomatic terms than Williams' "Do it, or off with your heads" ultimatum.
Meanwhile, Farmer's initial refusal to join all other statewide constitutional officers in voluntarily taking the six furlough days mandated for executive branch employees proves he is unfamiliar with the term "leading by example."
Only when shamed into it by news coverage (or perhaps being on the receiving end of an edict from Williams) did Farmer step up Tuesday and contribute the equivalent of six days' salary to charity.
Too bad he wasn't shamed (or bullied) into reimbursing the state for some of the nearly $1,600 in expenses he racked up while promoting the Kentucky Proud program at the Sweet Sixteen boys' basketball tournament in Lexington. The four nights he spent in a $359-a-night hotel suite seems a particularly unnecessary extravagance considering that his Frankfort home is not that far from the hoops action in Rupp Arena.
Add these recent displays by Williams and Farmer to their past records and the picture of leadership voters might be getting is ego-driven, dictatorial, insensitively self-serving and profligate with taxpayers' money.