Republicans Thayer and Carney file bills to move governor's ag policy office under Ag Dept.

01/29/2014 03:02 PM

The state government could save $3.6 million annually by moving the functions of the Governor’s Office of Ag Policy under the Agriculture Department, according to bills filed by two Republican lawmakers Wednesday.

Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer filed the measure in the upper chamber while Rep. Bam Carney, R-Campbellsville, introduced the bill in the House.

It is among the first wave of bills Republican lawmakers plan to bring that are aimed at streamlining government in order to cut or shift state spending. The Governor’s Office of Ag Policy was created during former Gov. Paul Patton’s administration specifically to administer the tens of millions of dollars that flowed in through the tobacco settlement fund.

House Republican Leader Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, first raised the issue of consolidating the agencies to Pure Politics after Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget address last Tuesday. About $16 million flows through the office.

“When you look at their budget, a lot of it is for debt service on water and sewer projects that we’ve authorized in the past. But really I think the Department of Agriculture could absorb the administrative cost,” Hoover said.

And Comer also seemed open to the move. Here’s what Hoover and Comer said:

Comer reiterated again Wednesday that he knows and respects many of the employees in the governor’s office of ag policy but is “ready, willing and able” to take absorb the office if the legislature decides the Ag Department should.

Kerri Richardson, spokeswoman for Beshear, said because agriculture is so important to Kentucky, “the chief executive of the commonwealth must be involved in developing that policy.”

“Millions of tobacco settlement dollars are set aside for agriculture every year,” she said. “The Governor must be involved in the oversight of the agricultural development programs and budgets which are integrated with many other state initiatives, including economic development, tourism, and public health.”

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