State workers group unhappy with Beshear and Farmer over furlough issues

04/17/2011 06:57 PM

A state employee group is upset at both Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear and Republican Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who is running for lieutenant governor, over their stances toward state worker furloughs.

The Kentucky Association of State Employees (KASE), run by merit workers David Smith and Melissa Jan Williamson, said on Pure Politics on Friday that they’re frustrated with Beshear because he vetoed language that would have ended furlough days for state employees.

Beshear vetoed the language from the bill the General Assembly passed in late March to plug the hole in the 2011 Medicaid budget.

“For some reason a number of these politicians seem to have the attitude they can do anything they wan to state employees, because they’re not going to organize and do anything about it,” said Williamson, a lawyer in the Labor Cabinet and vice president of the organization. “They’re going to find out differently this time.”

Williamson said a state representative running in the last election told a KASE board member that state employees didn’t matter, and he didn’t have to speak to them.

Williamson said that person is no longer a representative. But neither Smith nor Williamson would name that former legislator.

KASE is secretive about the number of people it has in the organization, saying if that information was public, it could be used to retaliate against merit employees.

The only clue that Smith and Williamson would give is“it’s getting bigger every day.”

Although KASE cannot endorse political candidates, Williamson told cn|2’s Ryan Alessi that they would educate their membership and tell friends and family who has treated state employees well and who hasn’t.

“I think Gov. Beshear’s vetoing that particular provision speaks louder than anything he’s said so far,” Williamson said.

The leaders of KASE also said they were disappointed with Farmer, the current Agriculture Commissioner who is running on the GOP slate with state Senate president David Williams.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported last week that Farmer has declined to give back part of his salary as other state leaders have done in support of rank-and-file state workers who have had to take six unpaid days of leave this fiscal year.

Beshear ordered the furloughs as a way to save the state money amid a budget crunch. He said the furloughs keep from laying off workers.

“I’m very disappointed in Richie,” said Williamson, who added she was from the eastern part of the state and normally applauded those who did well from that area.

The pair did speak highly of the Gatewood Galbraith and Dea Riley campaign, the independent slate in the governor’s race.

Without making an endorsement, Smith and Williamson said Galbraith stood with state employees at a recent event.

“They actually stood on behalf of state workers and spoke on our behalf, and people are seeing that,” Smith said. “And they’re recognizing that this may be somebody we want to look and see where they are.”

About Pure Politics

Pure Politics with Ryan Alessi airs Monday through Friday at 7 p.m. ET and again at 11:30 p.m. ET in all of cn|2's Kentucky markets. The program features political analysis and news, as well as interviews with officials, candidates, policy makers and political observers.

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