Op-Ed

Since Kentucky has a surplus now, can we have it back?

Legislative leaders react to Bevin’s budget plan

House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, left, and Senate President Robert Stivers comment on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget on Jan. 16, 2018.
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House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne, left, and Senate President Robert Stivers comment on Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed budget on Jan. 16, 2018.

Ah election time, unquestionably one of the most magical times known to man. It has this uncanny power to turn even the most pessimistic of people into eternal optimists...at least incumbents anyway. Just this week we got word back that here in the Commonwealth, after hearing a lot of our leaders preach doom and gloom for the past few years, somehow things have turned a corner.

Yep, lord knows how he did it, but just like that Gov. Griswald was able to undo darn near 100 years of free spending Democrat and RINO rule and now, right before the campaign kicks into gear, he’s even managed to deliver a $200 million surplus to put back into pensions and is ready to hand 100% of coal severance back to coal producing counties... but the good lord isn’t the only one who knows how he did it.

In fact, a whole lot of us in little towns all over the state can tell you, and while I can’t speak for them I can’t imagine that either they nor the Lord are too happy with the governor’s grandstanding as this surplus has come at a considerable price.

Two weeks, especially with the cast of characters we have at the Capitol these days, can be a lifetime in politics so I can’t blame you if it’s slipped your mind but if I could, let me take you back to our last budget session in 2018. In January the governor had just come off a year of hard decisions that had resulted in a 17.4% cut to all publicly funded universities and state agencies and at the State of the Commonwealth address, surely to his dismay, the governor announced that he was only getting started.

Proposing elimination of funding to over 70 publicly funded agencies providing services to some of our most vulnerable and another 6.25% cut to state universities, the governor made clear that he intended to cut until he’d managed to make Draco himself look tame. While the legislature was able to save some agencies by taking a stab at tax reform, they ultimately proposed and passed a budget that eliminated their funding to 46 of the agencies that Bevin had originally proposed.

Those cuts are telling as they effected rural and underserved communities in a big way.

Ask some of the few miners that we have left who used to be able to rely on the Kentucky Coal Academy for the training they need to deal with the hazards of their job but found out that the academy was zeroed out. Ask the family looking for specialized doctors in Western Kentucky or just more primary care doctors in some of the state’s most health challenged areas who found out we couldn’t afford to fund residencies in Owensboro or scholarships for osteopathic medicine students at UPike. Ask the teen mom who thought she could count on us pro-lifers to help make sure she had the resources she needed to at least finish high school so she could give her and her baby a fighting chance but found out that even the most right wing governor in the country didn’t see fit to fund the Georgia Chaffee teenage parent program (right in his own backyard too!), so she was on her own!

A lot of people have suffered every, single day since this budget took effect. It set back years of progress that Republicans and Democrats alike fought to bring about for people and communities who all too often are overlooked. So in a few months when you hear that it was the incredible handy work of the governor and his team who handed us back an amazing $200 million in under two years and that has made things so great that he can now afford to give all coal severance funds (which in the eastern coal fields literally amounts to mere tenths of what they did even a few years ago) back to the counties that actually mine it, remember those people who are back in the shadows now.

Remember the family who is going to have to rack their brain trying to coming with the money to send their off kid to school with higher tuition and no scholarships. Remember the ones who a college degree is out of the question for now. Remember the working mom and baby who have had the bottom rung of the ladder moved a little higher and who will probably need some more expensive public assistance a little longer now.

Remember all those who have had to learn do more with less and whose brighter tomorrow will have to wait a little longer. It was on their backs that this surplus was built and while a desperate candidate fighting the worst poll numbers in the country may not want to honor the sacrifices that he had to ask them to make, I sure do.

Derek Jorge Campbell is a Republican attorney, entrepreneur, and lobbyist based in central and eastern Kentucky. Reach him at derekjorgecampbell@gmail.com

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