Richie Farmer says he understood reasons for proposed cuts but preferred not to take any more

04/05/2011 07:34 AM

Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer said Kentucky’s government must be careful not to “borrow from the future” but acknowledged that he told officials, including his running mate David Williams, to try to avoid another round of agency cuts.

Williams, the Republican Senate President, had pushed for a proposal this spring that would have cut spending for state agencies in order to solve a more than $100 million shortfall in the Medicaid budget this year.

Farmer said the Agriculture Department — like most state agencies — has seen its budget slashed by about 25% over the last several years. And the Republican Senate proposal this time were “really minuscule compared to some of the cuts that we’ve incurred.”

But when asked whether he told his running mate — Senate President David Williams — to lay off the talk of more cuts, Farmer said he delivered that message.

“I’ve said that to a lot of people, actually,” Farmer said, then chuckled. “But I know there’s a lot of tough situations that they’re dealing with, and everybody always thinks that their programs are the most important. And we’ve got to take care of this or that.”

Farmer said state officials must get a better hold on Medicaid.

“We can’t keep throwing money at it. We’ve got to manage,” he said. “There’s a lot of fraud, waste and abuse that takes place, you know. In a lot of ways, I think that we could save money, and we’ll look at those in the future.”

Farmer also talked about the effects of recent budget cuts that have prevented the department from filling five appointed positions and seen the shrinking of the ranks of inspectors.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear ultimately vetoed provisions calling for cuts to agencies from the Medicaid budget fix bill that the Republican Senate approved. His administration has pledged to save money in Medicaid next year through efficiencies and managed care contracts. If that fails, lawmakers will have to cut the budget next year.

Williams and Farmer are running together on a slate in the Republican primary.

- Ryan Alessi


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