Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Northup Endorses... Fletcher?

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.

Selling Yourself For Friends

Selling your signs? Sweatshirts, t-shirts, I understand those are marketable. However, free yard sign distribution is tradition. This is both arrogant and ridiculous. Obviously, committed voters are the lone lawn sign advocates. With that stated, this policy screams Queen Anne.

From Bill Bryant’s Blog:

In an interesting twist… Republican candidate for governor, former Congresswoman Anne Northup is now selling yard signs on her website. Northup’s camp is charging $9.95 for a Northup-Hoover sign that could adorn your yard. It’s not unheard of for campaigns to sell merchandise these days… such as sweatshirts, caps, etc… in fact, it’s technically illegal to give away items of that much value… because it can be construed as vote buying. But signs? That seems to be a new one in a Kentucky governor’s race. Ted Jackson’s Spalding group has sold signs in other campaigns including President Bush’s… right now they’re also offering up Rudy Guilliani material.

Reaping Our Ignorance

From the Kentucky Post:

Officials in Frankfort are cringing over the future of an underfunded state retiree benefits system predicted to run out of money in 2022. But in cities and counties across Kentucky, the crisis is already squeezing budgets like a massive vise. Struggling to meet dramatic increases in contribution rates caused by rising pension and retiree health insurance costs, local governments are desperately looking for ways to cut costs and raise revenue for already tight budgets.

The crisis is outlined in black and white: In 1988, local governments paid an amount equal to 8.22 percent of employee salaries into the state-run retirement benefits program for their nonhazardous-duty employees and an amount equal to 18.85 percent for their hazardous-duty workers. For the fiscal year that ends June 30, those contribution rates have risen to 13.19 percent and 28.21 percent, respectively. For the fiscal year that begins July 1, they will go to 16.17 percent and 33.87 percent, and by 2013, they're projected to be a whopping 30.75 percent and 60.99 percent. "It's like a meteor and you can't get out of the way," said Newport Finance Director Greg Engelman, who predicts the crisis, left unchecked, will force cities to merge, consolidate services, dissolve, go bankrupt or leave retirement plans unfunded.

Obviously, we should have solved pensions. However, we prioritized. We raised our speed limit.

One Three Word Agenda, No Money

From the Kentucky Kurmudgeon:

Former U.S. Rep. Anne Northup's first TV ad suggested to me that she is having trouble raising money. Watching the ad, I was struck by the way the length of her hair went up and down in the various video clips. That was a clear indication that she was recycling pieces of ads from past congressional races rather than shooting a lot of new footage. That's the sort of thing a candidate might do when money is tight.

“Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win” has not inspired people? I am shocked.

Hall Assesses Debate, Assails Northup

The hour-long KET live debate went off without a surprise Monday night, giving viewers throughout the Commonwealth a taste of what Republican faithful have witnessed since early January.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher smiled and warmly discussed public policy, from economic development, transportation, health care to education. If he had any worry that his opponents would somehow best him on the tube, he soon discovered things were going to go quite smoothly.

On her first opportunity to speak, ex-Congresswoman Anne Northup gave a deer-in-the-headlights look, uncertain of how to answer Paducah Sun reporter Bill Bartleman's first question about whether she knew anything embarrassing about either of her Republican opponents. Later, Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Patrick Crowley asked another perplexing question of Northup: Name specific highway projects she didn't think the state should be building. But, Northup's toughest time appeared to be putting a smile on her face. For some reason, people tend to vote for candidates they like. Something to consider for the next debate.

Harper kept to his promise of not criticizing his opponents, refusing to take the bait on questions early in the hour-long program relating to Atty. Gen. Greg Stumbo's investigation of the governor. Northup, however, couldn't wait to jump on that one.

Problem is, she said nothing new to add to her claim she's more electable than Fletcher in the general election. If her performance tonight is any indication of her electability as a candidate for governor, Northup failed to measure up.

Numerous times, she refered to her plan for economic development, posted earlier today on her campaign website. That plan amounts to a reiteration of Fletcher initiatives during the past three years of his administration. Only exception is Northup's opposition to the Alternative Minimum Computation, a tax on out-of-state corporations who used to export profits out of Kentucky without paying taxes. Fletcher may well have scored more points had he challenged Northup and Harper on this issue, as Kentucky businesses could be on the spot to pick up the slack, if the AMC is abolished.

The edge of incumbency was quite evident tonight as the incumbent bested his two primary opponents with a warm and confident presentation. The other two opponents will may well wish the television audience was tuned in elsewhere, as they came up short in demonstrating they are ready for prime time.
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