Treasurer Allison Ball says her office could halt payment on checks that don't pass legal scrutiny

02/02/2016 11:04 PM

With less than a full month in office, Treasurer Allison Ball is gearing up to keep her promises of fiscal responsibility and oversight of the commonwealth’s finances — even if that means going to court or halting payment on a state check.

In recent sessions some members of the General Assembly, and even some candidates vying for the office, have made a case that the position is not needed. Ball says not only is the office needed, but it’s mandatory to stay on top of the work — even under the worst of conditions.

With a bout of winter weather blanketing Kentucky two weeks ago, Ball said the office had to stay operational to ensure 50,000 deposits were sent to retired teachers accounts. A staff of six made the transactions possible, even as the General Assembly and the rest of state government shutdown.

Constitutional oversight

During the 2015 campaign, Ball ran on a watchdog platform, and now that she’s in the office she takes the constitutional oversight role of treasurer seriously.

Though she won’t comment on what specific checks could be halted in process, she did say the duty lies with her to halt payments from the state of Kentucky that don’t pass statutory or constitutional muster.

“I think that the treasurer actually has the obligation to possibly not send the check or maybe get involved in a lawsuit … to stop something that shouldn’t be done,” Ball said.

If the treasury were to enter into litigation over a payment that didn’t match constitutional or statutory law, then Ball said she would turn to internal legal counsel to bring a challenge rather than seek help from the state’s Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat.

“Depending on the situation I might have standing to step in there,” She said. “I think there are a number of instances where I would be the main one to have standing.”

Bevin’s budget

For a candidate who ran on fiscal conservatism, Ball said newly elected Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget proposal hits the mark for a slimmer government.

“This is a time where we need to be grown-up about things, and I’m excited about that have gotten elected and the people that are taking this seriously,” Ball said. “We do need to cut things that need to be cut, and we need to fund things that need to be funded.”

The budget request from Bevin would include cuts to multiple state agencies. Bevin has request a 4.5 percent cut during the current fiscal year, and a 9 percent cut in 2017 and 2018.

For Ball, a former Prestonsburg bankruptcy attorney, she’s already trimmed out a lot of the perks of the job in an effort to be fiscally conservative with resources.

“I believe in being lean and running a tight ship,” Ball said. “I don’t have a state car — my office doesn’t use state cars. We don’t use cell phones. We make sure we use our money the best way we can, so I’m already in that mindset about cutting things as much as we can.”

Part of the reason Bevin is cutting is to pay down unfunded liabilities in the teachers’ and state employees’ pension systems, something Ball says should be a priority. Ball said the pension funding proposals are a good first step for Bevin.

As treasurer, Ball sits on the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement board. While Bevin’s first budget would send funds, Ball says there should also be some structural changes to retirees’ benefits.

“We didn’t get here in one session, and it’s going to take us a while to get things fixed,” Ball said.

Hear more from Ball on the Kentucky Lottery Board and her initiative for the next several years in the interview below.

About Nick Storm

Nick Storm is the Anchor and Managing Editor of Pure Politics, the only nightly program dedicated to Kentucky politics. Nick covers all of the political heavyweights and his investigative work brings to light issues that might otherwise go unnoticed, like the connection between the high profile Steubenville, Ohio rape and a Kentucky hacker whose push for further investigation could put him in federal prison. Nick is also working on a feature length bio documentary Outlaw Poet: A documentary on Ron Whitehead. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickStorm_cn2. Nick can be reached at 502-792-1107 or nicholas.storm@charter.com.

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