The Kentucky Legislature is working hard to be as unpopular as the U.S. Congress

The public is twenty years ahead of the Legislature. 

Editorial by LawReader Senior Editor Stan Billingsley – March 1, 2008

 

The public in poll after poll rates the U.S. Congress in popularity about at the same rate as used car salesmen.  The AP-Ipsos poll  conducted in January gave a job approval rating for Congress at only  35 percent. 

 

That gives lawmakers the same bleak approval rating as President Bush, who has been mired at about that level since last fall, including his dip to a record low for the AP-Ipsos poll of 32 percent in January.

 

“People are unhappy, there hasn’t been a lot of change in direction, for example in Iraq,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, chairman of House Democrats’ campaign effort.

In another measure of popular discontent, the survey found that 71 percent say the United States is on the wrong track, which is about even with the 73 percent who said so last May, the worst level since the AP-Ipsos poll began in December 2003.

 

We believe that the Ky. Legislature is working very hard to be as unpopular as the U.S. Congress, and we also think we know why.

 

We recall the work produced so far in this Legislature, and the 2006 session, and we note that very little has been done to really address and solve the major problems facing Kentucky.

 

The recent session has before it a budget that will require substantial cuts in education, that won’t even maintain the constitutionally mandated defense of criminal defendants, that won’t really solve the pension crisis (so far the house has passed a bill that will essentially only postpone dealing with the problem for another time).

 

We believe the public wants Kentucky to shed it’s backwards Hillbilly image. Past Governors and Legislatures have worked hard to improve the quality and availability of education resources. Those states with the best education systems always have the best economic results. But now, after almost a decade of progress, we are getting ready to reverse our advance and retreat to the bottom.

 

There is a deadlock in our Legislature.  The House Democrats are so divided that they can’t even pass a bill to allow the public to vote on Casino Gambling.  And if they do marshal the needed 60 votes to pass some form of this constitutional referendum, it awaits almost certain defeat in the Senate.  Republican Senate Majority leader David Williams says of the Governor’s casino plan: “He can push, he can threaten, he can coerce and he can have his people come down here and do whatever the wants to, but it’s never going to pass.?

 

This casino bill Beshear is pushing would simply allow the public to vote on this issue.

Repeated polls show that 80% of the public wants to at least have a chance to vote on this issue. The public is once again twenty years ahead of the Legislature.

 

While the pension funds are in the red and bankruptcy is less than a decade away, while the prisons are bulging with a 600% increase in inmates due to legislatures love of mandatory sentencing, enhancement of penalties, and virtual elimination of parole, has driven the Corrections budget to the same level as our spending for Higher Education, our legislature does nothing.

 

While prosecutors and public defenders are facing layoffs, and bridges aren’t being built, our legislature does nothing.  The list goes on and on and the action taken by the legislature to solve these problems is always the same….do nothing!

 

This demonstrates the link with the U.S. Congress.  The public is demanding change and dramatic action to solve serious problems, and our legislature not only won’t act themselves, they want to block the public from having a chance to solve the problem.

 

We wish that legislators would look at the massive crowds being drawn by Barack Obama. Obama is filing stadiums with only one message.  His message is change. 

 

We note that John McCain has taken the lead in the Republican primaries with a message, and that message is also change.

 

We don’t know what they specifically mean by “change? but to the public things in the U.S. are in such a mess that any change is preferable to the deadlock in Frankfort and Washington.

 

The public rightfully lays the blame for the current problems at the feet of the Ky. Legislature.  Over the last decade or so, they have happily cut state revenues by some $600 million dollars.  They have not restrained spending by an equal amount. 

 

I am no economist but I believe it works like this.  Less revenue and increased spending equals deficits.  Deficits mandate cuts in essential programs and services.  This means that Kentucky will forever be a second rate state, and that status hurts economic development.  Will this viscous circle continue forever?

 

The only thing the Legislature fears is a tax increase.  That seems to be the only thing they believe in.  Well this is why the public rates them so low in job approval polls.  The public wants leaders who will make the tough calls and solve the problems, and if that means an increase in taxes then so be it.

 

We have great praise for those legislators who are actually proposing solutions. But the legislature can only act when there is a majority in both houses, and right now it doesn’t look like anything is likely to happen in the last four weeks of this session of the legislature but more deadlock.

 

We see change coming.  It will eventually arrive in Frankfort.  And when the winds of change reach Frankfort, it may blow away those legislators who have their feet up on their desks refusing to do any of the heavy lifting required by progress.

 

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