, Corbin, KY


January 10, 2014

Session’s first week: The good, the bad and the ugly

CORBIN — The classic main theme from Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” serves as appropriate background music while perusing this column about the first week of the 2014 session of the Kentucky General Assembly.

The Good: Pension reform is not dead.

After exaggerated claims about the feeble pension-reform bill passed during last year’s legislative session, I was concerned that even lawmakers supportive of additional reforms might not be willing to touch the politically toxic issue — especially during an election year.

However, Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said during a Louisville talk-radio program on the eve of this year’s session that he was going to join Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, in an effort to make the Kentucky Retirement System transparent.

“Right now, taxpayers have no idea what the pensions are for any state employee or legislator,” Thayer said.

Thayer also said shining the light on the system — thus revealing previously heretofore unknown shenanigans to taxpayers and voters — would make future significant reforms more possible.

It’s hard to imagine what good reason House leaders have for dragging their feet on making the information regarding pensions available to the taxpayers who foot the bill.

The Bad: House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, has launched an all-out populist policy campaign by making a whopping minimum-wage hike from Kentucky’s current $7.25 to $10.10 an hour his legislative priority.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover may have been more right than even he knew, labeling the proposal a “redistribution of wealth.”  

A new National Bureau of Economic Research study cites research indicating that a majority of the redistribution that occurs with forced minimum-wage increases is not from the wealthy to lower-skilled workers, which is how supporters try to sell the idea. Rather, it’s from families in — or nearly in — poverty to other workers in the same position.

In fact, forcing a minimum-wage hike on business owners causes some families to actually fall into poverty as family members lose jobs cut by employers forced to raise wages.

According to the Employment Policies Institute, 645,000 entry-level jobs were lost when Congress raised the national minimum wage by just 50 cents an hour in 1996 — and that was during a robust economy, something Kentucky certainly doesn’t have right now.

Does the House Democratic leadership really consider policies like raising the minimum wage by nearly $3 an hour the great answer to the Bluegrass State’s economic revival?

The Ugly: Anybody who believes in the freedom of speech — one of our most precious rights — must be disappointed in the way Gov. Steve Beshear concluded his State of the Commonwealth speech.

“Fueled by social media and talk radio, we’re losing the ability to listen,” Beshear said. “We’re losing the ability to treat each other’s opinions with respect and to overcome differences. My friends, we must resolve not to let that happen here in Kentucky. We must remember that we are Kentuckians first and Democrats and Republicans second.”

Are you kidding me?

This is how the governor leading a state with a tradition of vigorous political debate and the annual Fancy Farm spectacle — with its rank partisanship and where the ultimate goal is to literally shout down and find the most creative ways possible to demean your political opponents — ends his speech?

Perhaps the governor singled out talk radio and the social media because those are the entities most willing to staunchly and persistently oppose his big-spending agenda of expanding Medicaid and bringing Obamacare to Kentuckians’ checkbooks while failing to lead a genuine economic revival.

That should tell you a lot about the state of this commonwealth’s executive leadership.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at Read previously published columns at

Text Only
  • 2014 Election logo.jpg 2014 Candidate Questionnaires

    Candidate questionnaires are listed by their county, job title and date of publication

    April 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Grimes comes out firing on McConnell

    Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State who is challenging Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in this fall’s elections, went after the five-term incumbent in a speech here to a convention of local county officials.

    July 11, 2014

  • Ad wars: McConnell takes shot at Grimes

    The ad wars and claims of false attacks in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race continued Wednesday with an ad by incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s campaign answering one released Tuesday by his opponent, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

    July 10, 2014

  • Heiner draws support in London

    Hal Heiner says he’s running for governor as “an outsider” who can change the direction of Kentucky by changing the culture of Frankfort.

    July 10, 2014

  • Grimes releases ad critical of McConnell

    Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes Tuesday aired her first ad criticizing her opponent, Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell.

    July 9, 2014

  • Conway has already raised $751,000 for 2015 campaign

    Jack Conway is sending a message to anyone thinking of joining him in the 2015 Democratic primary for governor.

    July 9, 2014

  • McConnell, Grimes disagree on contraception case

    Kentucky’s Republican congressman praised Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that corporations may opt out of a requirement to provide employees contraceptive coverage through insurance plans.

    July 1, 2014

  • McConnell, Grimes waging new ‘coal war’

    The term “coal wars” once referred to bitter conflicts between coal companies and miners who sought to unionize to negotiate for higher pay and more humane working conditions.

    June 4, 2014

  • Laurel recanvass complete, results remain the same

    A magistrate’s race was recanvassed Thursday morning, and the results for the race did not change for any of the candidates involved.

    May 30, 2014

  • Senate candidate debate plans debated

    Both candidates for the U.S. Senate — Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell and Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes — say they are eager to debate the issues.

    May 30, 2014