FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed a bill Monday designed to give legislators more oversight of state government contracts.
Beshear said in a statement that he supports the goal of Senate Bill 175, but county attorneys have advised him that the bill would hurt child-support collections and enforcement efforts.
The measure, approved unanimously by the Senate and House, would have made sure that contracts larger than $1 million were reviewed by the Government Contract Review Committee.
The state office of Child Support Enforcement currently contracts with county attorneys to provide child support collection and enforcement activities in all Kentucky counties.
Those contracts are exempt from review by the committee, even though some of them are more than $1 million a year, and county attorneys fear that the review might delay collection of child-support payments.
The panel reviews billions of dollars in state contracts. But there is about $250 million in state contracts each month that never receive official review from lawmakers.
The bill would have allowed the review committee to oversee an even broader array of executive branch contracts.
Beshear released letters he received from Bill Patrick, executive director of the Kentucky County Attorneys Association, and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell, on why he should veto the bill.
Patrick said there is concern that if the legislative panel did not review the contracts promptly, delays could occur in paying the counties to collect child supports.
"If the committee's review delays the process, then these initial payments may not be made available to county attorneys," O'Connell said.
For example, he said, Jefferson County would have to come up with $833,000 for that first month to maintain its child-support collection and enforcement.
O'Connell said this primarily would affect child-support contracts for Jefferson, Fayette and Kenton counties, because they each exceed $1 million a year.
The problem could lead to laying off staff members or even closing offices, he said.
The primary sponsor of the bill, Sen. Vernie McGaha, R-Russell Springs, said that he was "highly disappointed" with the governor's veto and that he had heard nothing from county attorneys during legislative debate on the measure.
"My bill had been out there for weeks," he said. "If they had a problem with it, we could have worked something out."
McGaha said he will bring the issue back in next year's legislative session.
The bill was sent to the governor April 14 for his consideration.
Because the 2010 General Assembly ended April 15, legislators will not have an opportunity to override the governor's veto.