By John Cheves
In 2012, having slashed $1.2 billion in state spending during his first term, Gov. Steve Beshear named two dozen people to a “blue-ribbon commission” to study Kentucky’s tax code and suggest reforms to help the state budget keep pace with demand for services.
Beshear said this report would not end up like eight previous reports on the tax code since 1995, which got stuck on shelves around Frankfort to be forgotten. Ignore the skeptics, he said at a February 2012 news conference.
“I would say to them to fasten their seat belts,” Beshear said. “Get ready for not just another study but for some proposals that I think can refashion Kentucky’s future.”
Twenty-one months later, there’s no need for a seat belt.
Led by Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, the commission spent 2012 listening to economists, taxation experts and hundreds of concerned citizens at statewide hearings. At year’s end, it gave Beshear a 453-page report with scores of recommendations, many controversial, such as taxing more of retirees’ pension incomes, taxing some services and raising the tax on a pack of cigarettes from 60 cents to $1.
Taken as a whole, the proposals would have added $659 million annually to the $9.5 billion General Fund that pays for schools, police, prisons, social services, parks, environmental protection and other public needs. In addition, the report would have introduced scrutiny to the $12.1 billion that Kentucky gives away every year in largely unexamined tax breaks, some dating back to the Great Depression.
Beshear thanked the commission for its work. Then the report joined its eight predecessors on shelves around Frankfort.
Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday he has no interest in replacing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should she choose to step down following the battle over President Barack Obama’s health care law.
The governor has won enormous praise from Obama in recent days and weeks, and rumors that Beshear might be tapped to succeed Sebelius have made the rounds in Frankfort.
In a statement provided to the Lexington Herald-Leader Monday, Beshear said no thanks.
“As I have said many times before, I have the best job in the world, right here, serving the people of Kentucky,” the governor said. “I have no interest at all in any further political office or appointment.”
“I wish we lived in the day when you could challenge a person to a duel.” — former U.S. Sen. Zell Miller on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews in 2004
“If dueling were legal in Kentucky … .” — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul on This Week With George Stephanopoulos on Sunday
Love him or hate him — and those seem to be the only choices — Rand Paul certainly keeps things interesting.
Who else would target millennial voters and channel Miller’s infamous 2004 Hardball performance, which earned a fantastic parody on Saturday Night Live?
That’s not to suggest Paul was plagiarizing Miller, the angry Democrat-turned-Republican senator from Georgia, but it does exemplify the strange and winding path the Kentucky Republican is taking toward 2016.
The past week, capped off with a fascinating appearance on This Week, was a bad one for Paul and fully demonstrated the journey he is taking to the 2016 Republican nomination: One step forward, two steps back and all on a tightrope.
Gov. Steve Beshear returned to Washington this weekend, telling a national news show that he guarantees the success of President Barack Obama’s health care law.
Beshear, one of the nation’s most vocal advocates for the law, counseled patience on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” pledging “it is going to work.”
Beshear jumped into the national spotlight after deciding to set up Kentucky’s own online health insurance exchange instead of deferring to the federal program. The state’s kynect.ky.gov site has been hailed nationally as a success since launching Oct. 1, even as the national HealthCare.gov website has been maligned and ridiculed for continuing problems.
As Kentucky’s Republican Senators bash the federal health law, Beshear has become a key ally to President Barack Obama. On Sunday, he defended Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
“I’m not going to give the president advice on hiring and firing,” Beshear said. “But you know what? When things go wrong, like they go wrong in our state, I take responsibility and I fix it. And that’s what Secretary Sebelius and the president are doing.”
Beshear appeared on the show with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, whose state did not set up its own health care exchange. Kasich criticized “Obamacare” as Beshear defended Affordable Care Act and boasted of what he sees as the enormous success of Kentucky’s program.
As of 11 a.m. Thursday, 26,174 Kentuckians had enrolled in new health insurance using the exchange. Of those, 21,342 had enrolled in Medicaid and 4,832 had enrolled in a qualified health plan.
Beshear, who was repeatedly pressed by moderator David Gregory to discuss the national exchange instead of Kentucky’s, said the president’s law will work.
“People are going to sign up for this,” Beshear said. “It’ll take us a while to get it in process, but I’ll guarantee you we’re going to make it work because it’s good for the American people and it’s good for Kentucky.”
To the law’s critics, Beshear advised they “take a deep breath.”
“Look, this is going to take some time to get done, but everybody needs to chill out because it is going to work,” the governor said.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT — Six months after unveiling a plan to quickly resolve payment disputes between medical providers and Medicaid managed care companies, Gov. Steve Beshear said the program is working.
“In both health outcomes and financial savings, Medicaid managed care is succeeding in Kentucky,” Beshear said Thursday at a Capitol news briefing.
In April, Beshear vetoed a bill designed to help hospitals and doctors receive prompt payment from three Medicaid managed care companies, saying it could have unintended consequences. The proposed law had the backing of many in the medical community but the legislature did not have time to consider overriding the veto.
Instead, Beshear implemented his own plan to address complaints by health providers. As a result, complaints are down, more payments are processed quickly and health outcomes continue to improve, said the Democratic governor.
Mike Rust, president of the Kentucky Hospital Association, was not immediately available for comment.
Beshear noted that next month marks the two-year anniversary of managed care in most parts of Kentucky, a practice now used in 47 states.
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT –Gov. Steve Beshear called on state lawmakers Wednesday to approve a bill that would allow dating partners to obtain protective and domestic violence court orders.
Beshear, speaking at a rally in the Capitol Rotunda to publicize Domestic Violence Awareness Month, said, “It’s time to pass legislation in the House and Senate that will provide the same protections for dating couples as the law currently provides for those who are married or those who live in the same residence.”
House Judiciary Chairman John Tilley, D-Hopkinsville, who is sponsoring the bill, said it would apply to all dating couples, including those of the same sex.
Beshear spokeswoman Kerri Richardson said the governor “supports the expansion of domestic violence laws to include dating couples as Rep. Tilley explained.”
By Jack Brammer
FRANKFORT – The Beshear administration plans to ask state lawmakers next year to make mandatory a new, multi-state background check program for workers in long-term care settings.
The mandatory program can’t come soon enough, a Lancaster father told a legislative panel Tuesday in relaying how his 24-year-old autistic, non-verbal son was assaulted in 2010 by a staff member at a day-care program.
But James Aneszko, senior vice president of the eldercare program Home Instead Senior Care, said making the program mandatory would present an economic hardship on consumers and make it more difficult for long-term care facilities and programs to find help.
The legislature’s Administrative Regulation and Review Subcommittee signed off Tuesday on a new regulation by the Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Office of Inspector General that would add voluntary FBI fingerprint criminal background checks to the currently required state checks for persons seeking employment in long-term care settings.
The new program – called Kentucky Applicant Registry and Employment Screening Program or KARES – is designed to help reduce the potential for abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly and vulnerable adults, said Eric Friedlander, the cabinet’s deputy secretary.
The program recently started in the state and its first 36,000 background are free, he said. It is available due to a $3 million federal grant to the state.
Under the program, applicants seeking employment in long-term care work in Kentucky will no longer be able to hide criminal actions committed in other states, said Friedlander.
Rep. Jimmie Lee, D-Elizabethtown, said the new program is “a valuable tool to help Kentucky’s most needy” but questioned Friedlander why it is not mandatory.
Friedlander said the cabinet thinks legislation is needed to make it mandatory. “We have the statutory authority to make it voluntary but not to make it voluntary,” he said, adding that the cabinet will ask the 2014 General Assembly that begins in January to make the program mandatory.
By Sam Youngman
By Sam Youngman
WASHINGTON — Gov. Steve Beshear said Thursday he is “disappointed” that Kentucky’s U.S. Senators “continue to weave their web of misinformation” about President Barack Obama’s health care law instead of offering solutions.
Beshear, a Democrat, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that Republican Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul are wrong to say Kentuckians don’t want the Affordable Care Act, and that they will pay a political price for opposing it.
“I would predict to you that a year from now all of these people are going to be turning around and looking at these critics and saying, ‘Wait a minute. You were misleading us. Because this works, and I have health insurance I can afford,’” Beshear said.
The governor, in Washington to speak at a conference hosted by National Journal, castigated Washington’s “dysfunctionality” before responding to an op-ed co-signed by Paul and McConnell and appearing in the Cincinnati Enquirer that assailed Beshear’s support of the law.
“As far as I’m concerned, they can stay up here in Washington and continue their political grandstanding,” Beshear said. “I’m going to be in Kentucky, making sure that our people have affordable health insurance.”
Gov. Steve Beshear has directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff until sundown on Sept. 20, 2013, in honor of the victims of Monday’s Washington Navy Yard shooting tragedy.
Beshear’s order follows a proclamation from President Barack Obama ordering flags to be flown at half-staff at the White House and other federal buildings to honor the victims.
“The Washington Navy Yard shooting was a senseless, unwarranted and sordid act of violence,” said Beshear. “Kentuckians and all Americans stand with the Washington community as we grieve and pray for the victims, their friends and families.”
Beshear encouraged individuals, businesses, organizations and government agencies to join in the tribute.
Flag status information is available at http://governor.ky.gov/Pages/flagstatus.aspx.
FRANKFORT– Gov. Steve Beshear is asking all Kentuckians to remember lives lost on 9/11 and to honor their memories by lowering flags on Wednesday, the 12th anniversary of the attacks on America.
“September 11, 2001, will always be one of the darkest days in our country’s history. Nearly 3,000 Americans died that day, and the pain will never be fully erased,” Beshear said in a statement. “I call on all Kentuckians to remember and honor these Americans and their families on Sept. 11.”
Beshear has directed that flags at all state office buildings be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday.
He also has issued a proclamation making Sept. 11, 2013, “9/11 First Responders Day” to honor the military and first responders.