Thursday, February 15, 2007

Welfare Queens In Their Fletcher Machines

I thought we were Republicans. Why support Fletcher’s Ford welfare program? Stop taxing Ford when they are not profitable.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

A bill to allow the state to offer additional incentives to keep the two Ford Motor Co. plants operating in Jefferson County is expected to be filed in the General Assembly today. Most incentives that the state offers to businesses are restricted to companies that create or add jobs. But this bill would allow the state to offer incentives to companies that agree to keep existing jobs in Kentucky.

"It's just a tool we want to put in place that would help us, we think, keep Ford vibrant in Kentucky down the road," Gene Fuqua, interim state Economic Development secretary, said yesterday. "In general, it attempts to allow Ford to recover enough tax credits and enough wage assessments to maintain their operations in Kentucky if they choose to do certain things."

Fuqua and Gov. Ernie Fletcher were asked about efforts to retain the approximately 8,000 Ford jobs in Jefferson County during a meeting of the House budget committee. Later in the day, Fuqua and Ford officials spoke of the need for the bill at a meeting of Jefferson County's legislators.

Ford, one of the county's largest employers, recently announced that it lost $12.7 billion in 2006, in part because of lagging sales of sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks. The two Ford plants in Jefferson County make such vehicles, and concerns have been voiced about the factories' futures. Last week, Fletcher proposed that $10 million of an anticipated $401 million state surplus be spent on training for Ford workers.

Gabby Bruno, Ford's governmental affairs manager, told the Jefferson County delegation that other states are offering Ford incentives, which Kentucky is unable to match. "All of our government partners are stepping up," she said. "Your programs are more focused on job creation or about profit."

Such programs are not applicable to Ford's circumstances because it is not making a profit and wants to retain jobs, not add them, she said. Until incentives for job retention are added by Kentucky, she said, "I'd have to say you're not in the game."

Bruno said she does not know what decisions Ford will make as it works to become profitable. "I'm not in a position to answer that other than to say that time is of the essence, and we are making critical decisions right now, so the sooner they can get this tool on the books the better off we'll be," she said.

Earlier in the day, at the budget committee meeting, committee Chairman Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, asked how important it is that lawmakers approve the $10 million in training money for Ford. "We feel this is critical now because of what Ford is doing to reduce their work force through … early retirements and bringing new people in to keep their plant running smoothly and keep their people trained," Fuqua told the committee.

But he said that the $10 million is just a short-term solution, and that the tax-incentive bill would allow the state and Ford to negotiate a long-term agreement to keep the jobs in Jefferson County.

Ford and state officials have previously discussed the possibilities of tax incentives for the company. Fuqua and Fletcher said during the meeting and in later interviews that the bill was not final and that they could not divulge its details. The governor said the proposal would "allow us to pick up more flexibility in offering them an economic-incentive package that I think will be more appealing."

Asked to elaborate, Fletcher said, "It would be tax incentives. We need some flexibility on how we can get that to address the plants. … There's some flexibility that we need in looking at the two plants as one."

The governor, accompanied by more than 20 top administration officials, appeared for nearly an hour before the committee to explain his plan for the projected surplus, which he outlined last week in his State of the Commonwealth address.

While many lawmakers oppose reopening the budget this year, key members of the committee endorsed efforts to retain the Ford jobs. "It would be devastating to Jefferson County and all of Kentucky if they happen to close one of those Ford plants down there," Moberly said.

House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, D-Okolona, said: "It's a full-court press to try to keep that plant here. I think we're at the point where we can't afford not to do something."

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said the Ford jobs are so important that the legislature must consider the unusual step of offering incentives to companies to stay in the state. "All indications right now say that they need this, and we need to act on it," Wayne said.

Last year, Ford offered all 75,000 of its U.S. hourly workers buyouts and early retirement packages, and more than 30,000 will leave the company this year. As the automaker closes plants, it will move workers from those facilities to others that have gaps created by the buyouts. Fuqua said the influx of new workers from other Ford plants makes the training money desirable. "They have new people coming in who are going to need to be trained on new equipment and systems."

KY Politics: Northup Desperate

For weeks now, those supporting Anne Northup's gubernatorial bid have been bursting at the seams in their anticipation of the trial of Sam Beverage, one of the so-called state merit investigation defendants.

Is this clever political maneuvering or just plain desperation politics? One thing's for certain the time-honored practice of using the criminal justice system to do in one's political adversaries knows no bounds. Kentucky Republicans and Democrats are happy to do it to their partisan kin, with great vigor at that.

What may unfold in the days ahead is a report that one of Northup's advisers coached a prospective witness in the Beverage trial. What's with that? A Northup memo released today appears to be an act of desperation to draw attention to some exaggerated significance of the Beverage case and away from her error-prone bid for governor.

(One side note: After reading the Northup memo, a neutral observer commented, "This is pure emotional reaction on their part. Not a good sign for the Northup folks to be doing this. I can't believe Anne wrote this.")

Were she and her advisers more plugged into the Beverage case, they would realize that it won't begin to give them the octane they'll need to finish the race. Sam Beverage's legal woes are a non-starter for Anne Northup's political fortunes. But, it's not the first time Fletcher's GOP adversaries have tried to cook up a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nor will it be the last.

Of course, voters see beyond this thin rhetorical flak. They see that Ernie Fletcher was given the most intensive of prosecutorial colonoscopies. All that came of it was a few measly misdemeanors, which were later dismissed by Atty. Gen. Greg Stumbo himself.

Yet, what's mind boggling about this latest episode is how Louisville GOPers are so quick to throw a fellow Republican under the bus. Maybe they should consider that one day they may be on the receiving end of their version of party loyalty.

Just last week, Northup saw their election map shrink as U.S. Rep. Geoff Davis's 4th District slipped away from being competitive to solidly for Fletcher.

On top of that, she has no traction in eastern, western or southern Kentucky where Fletcher has assets already on the ground. Central Kentucky is also strong for Fletcher. That leaves Northup's hometown, Louisville as her one and only sure or competitive region.

When Larry Dale Keeling wrote for the Sunday Herald-Leader that the Sam Beverage trial was a dark cloud looming over Fletcher's reelection plans, Northup seized on it in a heartbeat. Never mind that Stumbo's office isn't prosecuting the case with their knack for putting political spin on things.

Overplaying one's hand can be fatal in this game of politics. Apparently, with Northup's chances dwindling, this latest salvo is what can and does happen.

On The Right Explodes Over Runoff

The Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting today that state lawmakers might use a bill aimed at increasing disclosure of campaign donations to eliminate the primary runoff provision that hangs over this springs primary for Governor. Playing politics and using legislative gimmicks to repeal the primary runoff law is a thinly veiled attempt by Democrats to make sure a weakened Ernie Fletcher is the Republican candidate in the fall! In addition, Fletcher operatives like Republican Damon Thayer of Georgetown are aiding and abetting in this nefarious game to change the rules in the middle of the game.

The same old stink is rising from Frankfort! An excellent reader comment to a story in today's Courier Journal regarding repeal of the primary runoff law: In spite of some revisionist history about what the ruling was all about, in the 2000 election, the US Supreme Court ruled that one cannot change election laws after the election has already begun, which is what the Florida Supreme Court tried to do when Bush won Florida.

If the legislature overturns the runoff law, and no one exceeds 40 percent (highly unlikely-I believe someone will break out the pack on both sides the week after Derby), whoever comes in second and would have been in the runoff will sue using Gore vs. Bush as a precedence, and will probably win in court. You don't change the course of a foot race after it has begun just because the person who is ahead is someone you don't like.

The time to change the law was prior to January 30th, election filing day, not afterwards. Those who decided to run knew what the rules were - they should not be changed, and according to the Supreme Court, they cannot be changed. I can't believe our legislators are actually considering it!

Swallowing Bull

This post was offensive, erroneous, and pathetic. Kentucky Pachyderm should be ashamed. Greg Stumbo as Satan? K-Pac, stop chugging the Kool-aid.

From Kentucky Pachyderm 2:

Somewhere, probably either in Frankfort or Prestonsburg, Greg Stumbo is laughing. With yesterday's e-mail sent by the Anne Northup campaign about the state hiring persecution, Stumbo's mission edged one step further to completion. He has succeeded in his major goal that was set forth when he launched the probe.

He has split the Republican party and has managed to get folks whom we otherwise regarded as intelligent and well-informed to buy his belief that Ernie Fletcher is a criminal. Stumbo had no interest in prosecuting crimes. His interest was in politically damaging the governor. Apparently he succeeded. We are astonished at the number of Republican officials and bloggers who have swallowed Stumbo's bait hook, line and sinker.

We continue to be amazed that these people put any credibility or belief in the charges that were brought forth by an assistant attorney general who works solely at Stumbo's pleasure and supported Ben Chandler in the 2003 gubernatorial election, and ratified by a grand jury that never showed any desire to act independently of the prosecutor.

We are still working on confirming some preliminary information, but we do know that most of the grand jurors were Democrats and several were state merit employees -- two groups that were already predisposed to dislike Fletcher and his administration and the policies they put forth.

The media never supported Fletcher, not before the election and certainly not after it. Northup is among many Republicans who never supported Fletcher after he got into office and ran into difficulty. If she ever made a public statement in support of the Fletcher administration and in denouncement of the Stumbo investigation, we aren't aware of it.

If she made any move to cut off federal funding to the attorney general's office after the persecution began, we never heard of it. If she did anything at all to help her fellow Republican and former congressional delegation mate, that remains a deep dark secret. You are either with Ernie Fletcher or you are with Greg Stumbo. And Northup obviously wasn't with Ernie Fletcher. So Satan -- we mean Stumbo -- is certainly laughing today.

He has enlisted the help of key Republicans in this state to tear down the Fletcher administration. One of us wants to cry. Another wants to puke. Others here feel like doing both. We just wonder how Northup would feel if she ended up being governor and on the receiving end of a politically motivated partisan investigation, and she got no support or defense from within her party.

That's something Northup, Hal Rogers, Mitch McConnell and others will have to live with on their consciences. In case you didn't get the "Satan, laughing, spreads his wings" reference, it's the last line in the song "War Pigs" by Black Sabbath. The line right before it goes, "Begging mercies for their sins." That's what Northup and the rest of the Fletcher critics in the GOP should be doing.
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