Beshear administration marked by 'wasted opportunities,' GOP senator says

02/02/2011 07:21 PM

While discussing how this year’s governor’s race will affect the General Assembly, Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer of Georgetown said Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear has “abdicated his responsibility” by failing to push a more aggressive agenda.

“I would characterize the Beshear administration as one of wasted opportunity,” Thayer said on Wednesday’s edition of Pure Politics. “We’re just sort of treading water.”

Specifically, Thayer said Beshear has failed to push for further reforms to the state employee pension system. The General Assembly passed a bill in Beshear’s first year in office that slightly bumped up the retirement age for employees hired after July 2008 and required the state to get back on track to paying what it owes into the retirement fund.

Beshear said in Tuesday night’s State of the Commonwealth address that he and the legislature had “shored up Kentucky’s public pension funds, reducing benefits for new employees, eliminating pension double-dipping and mandating appropriate expertise for those making investment decisions.”

Thayer is strongly backing Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, in the governor’s race. Both Thayer and Williams support legislation that would convert the retirement benefits for future employees into a 401(k)-style system. However, an actuarial report showed it could cost Kentucky more over time, as the Herald-Leader first reported.

Thayer said he’s worked with Beshear on “a couple” of initiatives and said any legislative impasses this session shouldn’t be motivated by gubernatorial politics.

For instance, he said he predicted Republicans and Democrats reaching a compromise on one of Beshear’s legislative agenda items: moving money to plug a budget gap this year in the state’s Medicaid program.

“I think at the end of the day we’ll come up with some sort of solution on the gap on the Medicaid situation,” Thayer said.

Regarding the 2011 primary races, Thayer said he is backing state Rep. Addia Wuchner of Florence over Lexington developer John Kemper for the GOP nomination for state auditor. And he said he’s supporting Todd County businessman Bill Johnson over Hilda Legg of Somerset in the Secretary of State’s race.

Thayer also handicapped the Democratic primary for Secretary of State by giving an edge to Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Lexington lawyer. He said he was disappointed last year when Elaine Walker — the former Bowling Green mayor whom Beshear appointed as Secretary of State last month — declined to support legislation to tighten oversight of the Kentucky League of Cities.

Walker served as vice president of the KLC board at the time. And Thayer said she told him she wouldn’t support the oversight bill, which passed.

Walker didn’t go that far in public comments at the time. She said at a February 2010 hearing  that KLC was “not opposed to the legislation as a whole” but took issue with a provision in the bill that wouldn’t allow for closed-door strategy sessions.

- Ryan Alessi

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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