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April 10, 2018

OP-ED: KENTUCKY'S FINANCIAL FUTURE REQUIRES TOUGH DECISIONS

by Governor Matt Bevin

 

For many months, we have been working to resolve the toughest financial crisis Kentucky has ever faced, a crisis that began many years ago and that previous governors and legislators either negligently handled or ignored. It is now snowballing out of control. Nothing about this process has been easy. That does not, however, take away from the present reality that we are facing, or from the difficult decisions that must still be made.

On Monday, I vetoed both the budget and tax bills. By failing to significantly reduce the pension debt, while also increasing our overall spending, the legislature is proposing to continue Kentucky’s dangerous fiscal habits by making promises to our citizens that we already know we cannot keep. Have we not learned our lesson? These tax and budget bills suggest that we have not.

It would have been easy to yield to the emotion and hysteria, give in to the special interests and sign the bills into law. That would have been the wrong thing to do, however, because it hurts the working class and small business owners who have no voice in Frankfort. In both 2015 and 2016, Kentuckians sent a powerful message at the voting booth, mandating a change in the status quo and demanding a break in Frankfort’s longstanding habit of fiscal irresponsibility. I was elected, with a majority of the vote in 106 of our 120 counties, to help build a solid financial future for Kentucky. That is what I am fighting to do.

While folks may disagree on how we got here, there is one thing that is beyond dispute. Our $60 billion pension liability hurts every Kentuckian. It equates to more than $13,500 in debt for every man, woman and child in Kentucky. Where is that money going to come from?

The pension bill took a step in the right direction to stop further digging but did virtually nothing to fill in the hole of debt that had already been dug. It failed to decrease our unfunded liabilities—rejecting reasonable changes that even the Kentucky Education Association (KEA) and the Teachers Retirement System themselves admitted were legal and would have lowered the pension liability.

The KEA has been unwilling to discuss true reform that will ensure that their system remains solvent for current retirees, active teachers and the next generation of teachers. Although many current and former teachers are willing to share responsibility for fixing a broken system, the KEA continues to be unreasonable and unfair to Kentucky’s educators, taxpayers and working families. They want Kentucky’s working class men and women, most of whom have no pension plan themselves, to be the funding source to pay off almost 100% of the $60 billion pension liability. The KEA doesn’t want to contribute anything to solving this crisis.

The vision of economic growth that I communicated in my budget address in January was predicated on the assumption that we would create a pension fix that would allow us to aggressively pay down our debt. During that address, I thanked the General Assembly for the economic seeds they had planted in the short session of 2017. I applauded the efforts that led to record-breaking economic growth last year. I also cautioned that continued growth was dependent on the 138 members of the General Assembly doing the right thing and making tough decisions going forward.

What the General Assembly has done, though well intentioned, is listen to a loud, emotional minority and write a budget check that Kentucky taxpayers cannot afford to cover. In our budget proposal, our administration proposed money-saving cuts to 70 different non-critical programs. These cuts are necessary given the current fiscal realities in our state. The General Assembly’s budget bill chose to ignore those realities by restoring much of that spending and proposing nearly $600 million more in spending than we recommended. The result was a tax and spend budget that, after further analysis, is also unbalanced by at least $50 million.

I have repeatedly called for true tax reform and modernization. The tax bill I received from the General Assembly fell well short of that, instead placing an increased tax burden almost entirely on the backs of hard-working Kentuckians. These men and women are too busy working and raising their families to come to Frankfort and yell at legislators. They also can’t afford to pay lobbyists to yell for them. Nonetheless, they deserve to be heard because they are the ones paying for nearly everything.

These two bills discourage job growth by repealing the Jobs Retention Act. I have received calls from many Kentucky job creators who are very concerned about the unintended consequences of these rushed bills. This tax and spend proposal would also leave our emergency fund virtually depleted, depriving us of critically needed reserve funds should Kentucky experience a natural disaster or downturn in the economy. Credit rating agencies will frown on this. That will hurt Kentucky.

The positive possibilities ahead of us are endless if we can get our financial house in order. We must not be shortsighted. We must not continue the bad practices that got us into this mess.

We should all share in fixing the problems we face. Hard-working Kentucky families keep the Commonwealth moving, and I will not accept a plan that puts our financial burdens only on their shoulders. On Monday, I took a stand for working class Kentuckians by vetoing the budget and tax bills.

We can do better than this and, I believe, with input from the job creators, taxpayers and thoughtful legislators in both chambers, we will do exactly that. United we stand. Divided we fall.

 

April 6, 2018

Fixing Appalachia may be the first step to fixing America, says leading modern historian of the region

You may know Buzzfeed as the home of pop-culture listicles, but it recently published a thoughtful essay about Appalachia by Ronald Eller, the author of Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, and professor emeritus of history at the University of Kentucky.

Ronald Eller, the author of Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, and professor emeritus of history at the University of Kentucky.Ronald Eller, the author of Uneven Ground: Appalachia Since 1945, and professor emeritus of history at the University of Kentucky.When most Appalachians voted for Donald Trump in 2016, he writes, liberal pundits made the region a symbol of the nation's broken politics and used it to explain his appeal, while some conservatives said poor Appalachian areas were "white ghettos" of dependency created by liberal policies.

Both sides ignore the real source of Appalachia's well-known problems with unemployment, opioid addiction, health problems and poverty, Eller argues: "Rampant, unregulated free-market capitalism has ravaged the land and people of the mountains since the turn of the 20th century, creating an internal economic colony that provided natural resources for the modernization of the rest of country but left the working-class residents of Appalachia dependent and poor. . . . Efforts to reduce regional poverty over the last five decades, including those of the present, have relied primarily upon the same market-expanding strategies that fueled these inequalities in the first place. They provide a semblance of growth and opportunities for a few, especially those well connected to outside sources of capital, but they do not fundamentally alter the economic, political, and institutional structures that have plagued the region for more than a century."

When those solutions failed in Appalachia, coal country elites told locals that wealthy outsiders, especially federal bureaucrats, were the source of the region's problems, not greed, exploitation or corruption, Eller writes: "This may be the central issue of the Trump era: whether we will continue to blame the people of the region for their own condition, or whether we will acknowledge the need for substantive structural reform nationally and within Appalachia."

Appalachia's problems show the need for nationwide policy change, and fixing Appalachia may be the first step to fixing America, Eller argues.

Written by Heather Chapman Posted at 4/06/2018

 

April 4, 2018

If You Quit

 

By Dr. Glenn Mollette

This column is about something I've thought about doing before and that's just saying the heck with it. Some of you might say it a bit differently.

When I was a pastor I would get so sick and tired of the same old people whining and complaining about the same old stuff that never amounted to anything. Yet, they seemed to relish in having something to complain about. Most of us have been there and done that. We have whined or just got tired of hearing others whine.

Chances are you are there right now. You've done all you can to help somebody and you can't do it anymore. You've hung onto something that you wished you had walked out of a long time ago. You've showed up at a job that you've hated for years. You've carried on in different tasks that you are tired of doing because it all seems so futile. Nobody would probably blame you much if you made a change. For good or bad the person you always have to deal with is you. You have to decide if you can live with your decision to give up.

Fifteen years ago I didn't know how I was going to eat let alone pay the mortgage. I was trying to start a practical way for ministers around the planet to study the Bible and earn a ministry degree at home. After two years it was pretty dead and going zero. I was so jobless that I was interviewing with a nursing home for a job that paid really nothing. The interviewer wanted to know what my current job was and I said, "President of Newburgh Theological Seminary, Newburgh, Indiana." She said, "That sounds like a better job." I replied "I would like it more if it at least paid a little something." I was ready to quit but one tiny small success eventually led to another and that was fifteen years and at least 6,000 students ago. I'm glad I didn't quit but nobody would have blamed me if I had.

I'm certainly by no means saying life is roses. Not everything turns out pie and cream in life. I've had plenty of failures. I have failures going on right now. I suppose the only way I can escape failing at stuff is to stop trying to do anything. I've thought about giving up this column. About the time I start having this thought I'll get email from different people telling me that something I wrote was meaningful to them. An editor will write me and thank me or somebody will hate something I wrote and write something ugly. At least then I know I'm being read. So, I'm going to stay with it for awhile. Who knows what will happen.

Today, maybe the whole point of all of this is to help you stay with it a little longer or maybe just one more day. When you look back you never feel that great about anything if you just quit.

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Dr. Glenn Mollette is the author of 12 books. His syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

READ HIS NEW BOOK - UNCOMMON SENSE

Contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com Like his facebook page at www.facebook.com/glennmollette

 

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