Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Fletcher: Special Session Soon, I Need the Votes

As previously stated, legislators would not when required. Good luck scoring laws via politics.

From the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Gov. Ernie Fletcher said he will decide in the next two weeks when to recall lawmakers to address projects they left unfunded and a measure that would provide incentives for production of alternative fuels.

If legislative leaders can get on the same page, such a special session could even occur before the May 22 primary election, in which Fletcher and one of those key lawmakers -- Democratic House Speaker Jody Richards -- are vying for their parties' respective nominations for governor. "I don't think we're ready right now to call a special session, but over the next couple of weeks, we have to decide whether we'll have one before the primary," Fletcher said. "And if it doesn't occur in the next few weeks, then I think it's appopriate to wait until after the primary."

The governor made those comments to reporters following his brief remarks to the blue ribbon commission he empaneled to look into stabilizing the state employee retirement system, which currently faces as much as $12 billion in debt. Fletcher charged the commission specifically yesterday with coming up with recommendations on: How Kentucky fulfills its retirement and health care obligations to current employees and retirees in the face of debt and rising costs. What the state could do to retool the system and benefits for future employees' retirements.

"This is probably one of the most significant fiscal endeavors we will have in the commonwealth of Kentucky in several decades," Fletcher told the group of business leaders, experts, lawmakers and key administration officials. "You have quite a task."

Fletcher later told reporters that it's unlikely any broad reforms to the retirement system will be included in a special session before 2008. The state Senate had pitched a plan that would have restructured benefits for future employees, but the House balked, saying it was something that needed more studying. That contributed to the impasse over projects, which included $9 million for a new runway at Bluegrass Airport and $38 million for construction of a new stadium at the Kentucky Horse Park in preparation for the 2010 World Equestrian Games. But, it's still possible that Fletcher might ask the legislature to approve several hundred million dollars in bonds that would cut down on some of the retirement system's multi-billion-dollar debt "if we could get an agreement," Fletcher said.

When pressed, Fletcher said little head-way has been made so far in getting House and Senate leaders to agree. "We've had some conversations, and I've talked to some folks on both sides," Fletcher said. "I think there's a period of cooling off. We'll have to wait and see."

Also on a possible special session agenda is funding for the 120 counties to cover the cost of a runoff election, that appears likely to kick in at least for the Democrats. The state's first runoff since 1935 would be triggered if no candidate in a primary for governor receives at least 40 percent of the vote. In that case, the top two finishers would face off as early as June 26 for an overtime election that will cost counties at least $5 million. Fletcher said he could authorize up to $1.8 million to help but wants lawmakers to at least approve funds to cover the rest or eliminate the runoff altogether.

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