By Jack Brammer – firstname.lastname@example.org
FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear will reimburse the state for using a state plane for a political event Monday, his campaign manager said Friday.
Beshear’s campaign manager, Bill Hyers, acknowledged that the governor, a Democrat, attended a political event late Monday in Louisa. The stop came during two days of traveling around the state to gain public support for his Medicaid plan.
Beshear said Monday morning at a stop in Lexington that he was using a state airplane to urge the public to call Senate Republicans to side with his Medicaid plan to avoid cuts in state agencies and education.
He contended that his trips to nine Kentucky cities during the first two days of a special legislative session to try to resolve the Medicaid issue were not related to his re-election campaign.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with the governor’s race,” Beshear said at the Lexington airport, commenting about his flight schedule. “This has to do with the future of our kids in this state”
“Yes, the Governor had a political event late Monday,” Hyers wrote Friday in an e-mail to the Herald-Leader.
“As is the strict policy of the Beshear administration,” Hyers’ e-mail continued, “the campaign will reimburse the state for any non-governmental use of the state plane.”
In a telephone interview, Hyers said the event was in Louisa, but he declined to say whether it was a fund raiser.
He also said the Beshear campaign has reimbursed the state on previous occasions for use of the state plane, but Hyers was not immediately able to elaborate on previous reimbursements.
Hyers noted that Beshear implemented a policy in February 2008 outlining guidelines for use of state aircraft, an issue stemming from the administration of former Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher. Beshear beat Fletcher in November 2007.
The policy states that “any costs of travel for personal purposes shall not be paid with state funds. Travel for political purposes is deemed a personal activity.
“The costs of travel for personal or political purposes shall be calculated using costs that would be considered at a rate developed by a commercial air charter company.”
Hyers said the campaign would wait to hear from the state on the amount the Beshear campaign needs to reimburse the state for the Louisa trip.
He said he could not say whether Beshear attended any more political events during his two-day fly-around this week.
Hyers maintained that the governor kept separate the fly-around news conferences and the political event.
Beshear’s two-day trip started on the first day of a special legislative session he called to try to fix a hole in the state Medicaid budget. The session is ongoing.
Senate President David Williams, a Burkesville Republican who wants to replace Beshear as governor, said Monday that Beshear was wasting taxpayer money on his two-day trip.
The Kentucky Republican Party on Monday demanded that Beshear’s re-election campaign reimburse the money. The Beshear administration said the two-day trip would cost the state about $8,200.
State GOP Chairman Steve Robertson said Friday that Beshear should produce all records of reimbursements to the state for campaign events.
“This governor can’t stay away from politics. Everything is political to him,” Robertson said.
Williams’ campaign manager, Scott Jennings, said, “Beshear wasn’t truthful about his taxpayer funded campaign trip, and he’s not being honest about the serious budget issues we face.”
In the 2007 race for governor, Fletcher’s opponents criticized him for his use of state aircraft.
Fletcher repaid the state $19,359.21 for use of official aircraft to attend 35 campaign events.