Republican House lawmakers keep their narrative going with broad goals while some details are TBD

09/19/2012 03:13 PM

FRANKFORT — Forty-four Republican lawmakers and legislator hopefuls lined up in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday behind the man they want to be House Speaker to hear him publicly unveil their plan for Kentucky.

What they and the handful of reporters who attended heard from Rep. Jeff Hoover, the Jamestown Republican who has led the House caucus since 2001, was long on ambition, if short on some specifics.

The Republicans’ priorities, as Hoover outlined them are (1) to increase jobs and bolster the economy; (2) rein in government spending; (3) insulate Kentucky from some of the mandates of “Obamacare;” (4) reform government process; and (5) revamp Kentucky’s tax code.

Some of those categories came with specific proposals. For instance, Hoover said reforming government means requiring a 48-hour reading period for bills before a vote. And, according to the plan, House Republicans would vote to block expansion of Medicaid as called for by the Affordable Care Act.

Other items were bills House Republicans have pushed for in the past, such as requiring drug tests for those who receive government benefits.

But Hoover’s overarching purpose was to continue highlighting contrasts with House Democrats as Republicans go about seeking to chip away at the Democrats’ hold on the chamber. With no statewide race this year and few competitive congressional and state Senate contests, Republicans have embraced the goal of trying to erase the Democrats 91-year control of the lower chamber (currently 58-41) in one fell swoop — requiring a historic flipping of seats.

Hoover again referred to Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo as being Kentucky’s “biggest cheerleader” for President Barack Obama, who isn’t popular in many rural House districts that are in play this fall. And he said House Democrats have given lip service to potential solutions to Kentucky’s problems instead of tackling them.

Here’s a clip of how he framed that:

But on two of the biggest issues facing Kentucky, Hoover wouldn’t commit to picking a specific solution.

The six pension funds under the Kentucky Retirement Systems have a combined unfunded liability of $33 billion. And legislators have come under increasing fire for having the most financially stable of those funds — and extra pension perks other state workers don’t have.

Hoover and the Republicans have offered several different options, from eliminating the legislative pension program for future lawmakers to reducing some of the perks and converting into a 401(k) system. Hoover said he didn’t have to pick one now — just get the conversation going enough to quickly get hearings on the different approaches in hopes of passing something by the end of the 2013 session in March.

On tax reform, Hoover was even more vague. He said the tax system must be changed and blamed House Democrats for not seriously taking up the issue. But as for what he would like to see done, that’s to be determined. Here is part of his answer about that and whether some Republicans’ pledge not to raise taxes could impede their ability to support a tax reform plan:

So did Hoover undermine his own message by calling out Democrats for “not taking a stand” on issues by not taking a specific position on some of those problems?

Hoover said no. It’s a matter of making decisions — just not “in a vacuum,” he said:

If House Republicans skipped a few details in their proposals, House Democrats were even more vague in their response to the GOP caucus’ platform.

“Their agenda is just an extension of what Senate President David Williams campaigned on last year and that the voters overwhelmingly rejected,” said Stumbo in a statement. “The House Republicans are going to find that re-heated leftovers aren’t what the voters want this year either.”


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.