Republicans see political motivations in 'mandate' in Agriculture Department budget

03/13/2014 09:29 PM

A proposal in the House budget which passed largely down party lines Thursday gives the Department of Agriculture new duties to undertake diabetes education and energy efficiency programs.

House Republicans complained that the new directives were politically motivated because they were placed on the lone Republican constitutional officer, James Comer, who is considering running for governor in 2015.

House GOP Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, called the move an “affront to about 400,000 Kentuckians who have diabetes – like myself.”

“There’s no question politics are being played when you take diabetes education and you put the funding for that program into the Department of Agriculture and require the Department of Agriculture to fund diabetes education,” Hoover said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Agriculture said the agency is willing to do whatever the legislature requires. But Holly Harris, Comer’s chief of staff, said department leaders do have concerns because the only trained medical personnel on staff are veterinarians who are not experts in this area.

“The concern we have was echoed by Leader Hoover and Representative Mayfield tonight … it takes expertise this is a serious disease and probably belongs at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services,” Harris said.

There was “no question Commissioner Comer was singled out” in the budget process, Harris said.

Earlier in the week, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told reporters that Comer wasn’t targeted.

Stumbo was cordial in his dismissal of ill will towards Comer. But on the floor of the House, Rep. John Will Stacy, D-West Liberty, got upset when questioned by Hoover and other House Republicans. Stacy chairs the budget subcommittee general government, finance and public protection, which includes the Ag Department budget line-items.

With the House budget cleared and sent to the upper chamber, Harris said she’s sure the Senate will “rectify what the House has done.”


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