Has Frankfort adopted the dysfunction of Washington, D.C.?

04/13/2016 09:02 AM

Politicians in Kentucky’s Capitol have always been somewhat dysfunctional, but insiders and observers are taking note of a shift in rhetoric that has become reminiscent of partisan speak in another political town located on a river 550 miles away.

Political rhetoric, posturing and the stop-and-start negotiations over a two-year budget now has first-year Republican Gov. Matt Bevin saying he won’t call a special session and bringing up terms often bandied about in Washington, D.C. — partial government shutdown.

Observers from both parties say the other side is to blame for the recent wrinkle and potential fiscal cliff.

On Tuesday, Bevin preemptively blamed Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo in the event the budget does not clear the General Assembly. Budget negotiations among legislative leaders of both parties have been behind closed doors in recent days, so the gamble for Bevin if lawmakers fail in delivering the document will be up to the voters to decide who’s at fault.

Lawmakers have a self-imposed deadline of Wednesday night to complete their work in time to vote in chambers on Friday, the last day lawmakers can constitutionally remain in session.

Republicans in Congress shutdown the federal government for 16 days in 2013, which came back to bite the party. Polls showed the GOP sustained damage in the partial shutdown dealing widespread dissatisfaction with government, but Democrats also showed distress in the polls.

In Kentucky, lawmakers have Wednesday to stave off a fiscal cliff in Kentucky now that Bevin has ruled out a special session.

Republicans and Democrats Pure Politics spoke with said that there was blame on both sides for the recent actions, but the bend in who is to blame largely followed the party affiliation of those providing the analysis.

Leo Haggerty, a Democratic campaign consultant, said the man now residing in the governor’s mansion is to blame for dysfunction in Kentucky’s capital city.

“I’m concerned that under Gov. Bevin’s leadership that we’re looking at level of dysfunction that is new to Kentucky and rivals D.C.,” Haggerty said in a phone interview with Pure Politics on Monday.

On Monday, lawmakers spent the majority of the day posturing over the state of the breakdown and pointing fingers at blame for the most recent impasse. Lawmakers returned to the negotiating table on Tuesday afternoon breaking around 9 p.m. with plans to resume negotiations on Wednesday morning.

J. Todd Inman, an Owensboro insurance agent and Republican activist, said the House Democrats are to blame for dragging their feet in passing a budget and now holding out in negotiations.

“I think House Democrats have suddenly awakened to the fact that we’ve got a real problem and it’s their last hurrah,” Inman said.

Matt Erwin, another Democratic operative Pure Politics spoke with, said the slide to D.C.-style politics is taking place in statehouses across the nation, in part, due to the types of leaders being installed in positions of power.

“While there a number of reasons for this including the ‘nationalization’ of state parties, I’d argue that the lion’s share of the blame lies in politicians who run on a platform of disdain for government,” Erwin said. “An entire generation of conservative candidates and lawmakers — from Congress to Frankfort — have run on a platform that government is broken beyond repair.

“It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise when these same folks see no real need to provide the reliable, dependable and stable government that people deserve.”

In his analysis, Haggerty said that not even the GOP leaders negotiating the budget fully trust the GOP governor, which he said could be causing problems in the negotiations on the state spending plan.

“From what I’ve seen and heard from Republicans they don’t trust Bevin any more than (Democrats) do,” Haggerty said, referencing attempts from Senate Republicans to pass the budget before the veto recess period and retain their ability to override those vetoes.

Increased pressure on House Democrats is to blame for partisan politicking, said Inman, though he said he does see D.C.-style politics at play.

Democrats have been in control of the lower chamber since 1921, and the state House is the last Democratic-controlled chamber in the south, a fact not missed on the Obama administration, which played a role in Democratic Rep. Jeff Taylor’s during the March 8 special election in the 8th House District.

Inman said he could see the parallels between the state struggles and national stalemates of recent.

“To a certain degree Frankfort is a miniature version of D.C., except in D.C. it’s an entire party and industry that makes a stalemate of things, here in Kentucky its one or two people,” Inman said.

The pressure is on for those one or two people to find a compromise on Wednesday. It they can’t find that agreement and Bevin fails to call lawmakers back into session, only one man will be responsible for shutting down the government.


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