You may recall that our praise last week for the General Assembly's accomplishments came with a caveat that it was too soon to know all that went down in the session's final hours.
Turns out lawmakers waited until after midnight to raid the balance of the public employees health insurance fund for $63.5 million, as The Courier-Journal's Tom Loftus discovered and reported a few days after the gavel fell on the 2015 session.
Coming at the last minute, the action gave state workers and school district employees, who pay premiums into the fund, no chance to protest.
Such raids have become common. Lawmakers and governors have been avoiding tax reform for years by tapping into various state funds to balance the budget.
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State budgets routinely divert money from funds created for specific purposes and collected from sources such as professional and occupational licensing fees, or sales of license plates which are supposed to support nature preserves but instead make up for shortfalls in the General Fund.
The practice has been upheld by the state Supreme Court, which, incidentally depends on the legislature to fund it and the rest of the state's judicial system.
The $63.5 million raided from the public employees insurance fund will provide $10 million to cover a shortfall in public school funding, $10 million to fund the new heroin bill and $7.8 million to help cover losses in road programs due to declines in gas tax revenue.
The rest will plump up the state's rainy-day fund which has been running low.
Lawmakers also dipped $3 million from one of their favorite wells — the fund that is supposed to clean up leaking underground storage tanks and that gets its money from a 1.4 cent tax on each gallon of gasoline.
Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, told Loftus that "a significant fraction" of the insurance fund "represents what we pay in. So, in essence, this transfer is a selective tax on public employees." The money could have been used to lower costs or improve benefits for the public employees who pay into the fund.
The $63 million raided from the employees insurance fund will go to good causes. But you have to figure lawmakers know this is no way to run a state or they wouldn't have waited until the dead of their last night to do it.