Beshear makes his case to Ky. at a cost of $8,200, while Williams ramps up criticism

03/14/2011 05:34 PM

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican Senate President David Williams turned up the volume on their political feud Monday as Beshear flew to four regional airports to publicly appeal to voters over the Medicaid budget fix.

That immediately prompted criticism from Williams, who has rejected Beshear’s proposal to fix a $100 million gap in this year’s Medicaid program. Williams told reporters the series of press conferences at regional airports amounted to a tax-funded campaign trip.

Williams is running for the Republican nomination for governor for the chance to take on Beshear in the fall race. And lately, the governor’s race has been a major undertone of legislative politics.

The Republican Party of Kentucky also publicly questioned the cost of Beshear’s fly-around.

“Steve Beshear is proving again why he cannot be trusted to competently operate the state budget,” said GOP Chairman Steve Robertson. “I am sure one or two of the rank-and-file state workers Beshear furloughed would have loved to come to work today instead of watching their salaries go to pay for a Steve Beshear campaign trip.”

Beshear has planned more stops for Tuesday at airports in Paducah, Hopkinsville, Bowling Green, Owensboro and Louisville.

Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for the governor, told Pure Politics that a two-day fly-around would cost the state about $8,200.

“Part of any governor’s job is to keep Kentuckians informed about the consequences of actions in Frankfort, particularly when they are potentially harmful to our children and to folks in need of health care,” Richardson said in a statement. “The governor also has a right and a duty to mobilize citizens of the state when such actions are about to take place.”

Beshear has spent the press conferences asking voters to call their lawmakers to pass a fix for the Medicaid budget that doesn’t include cuts to state agencies, particularly education.

Negotiations over the Medicaid budget broke down in the General Assembly last week. Williams ended the session Wednesday by convening the Senate for a 30th and final work day of the regularly session. The General Assembly was supposed to be on a paid recess until March 21 for the governor to consider vetoes, then have a last work day on March 22.

After the session ended abruptly, Beshear then called a special session starting today.

Beshear said Friday after a speech in Elizabethtown that he expects lawmakers to stay in session “until we get this job done.”

Williams told reporters Monday that Senate Republicans won’t back off their approach of cutting government now to cover the $100 million gap in Medicaid.

And he said by cutting off the session 12 working days early, the legislature saved the state $800,000 — enough to cover the cost of a special session at $63,500 a day.

Williams also has proposed separate measures for lawmakers not to draw paychecks during this special session and a law change so that legislators cannot get paid in any session — regular or special — unless they approve a measure justifying why they deserve a salary.

House Democrats had little to say on those matters publicly on Monday.

Their leader, Speaker Greg Stumbo of Prestonsburg, missed the first day of the special session to attend a family funeral.

Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark of Louisville, said the House Democrats are again moving forward with their original plan for the Medicaid fix, which was the governor’s approach to move money forward from the 2012 budget to cover this year’s gap.

Clark said House Democrats are trying to stay out of the governor’s race.

- Reporting by Kenny Colston


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