Friday, December 14, 2007

The need for help from Frankfort

Yesterday there was a Northern Kentucky Caucus meeting at the Boone County Campus of Gateway Community and Technical College. This meeting was arranged by our Caucus Chairman, Sen. Damon Thayer. There are always many requests this time of year from interested parties wanting to ask the caucus for help. This was a chance to get the caucus together and hear from everyone at once.

Most of the participants yesterday came requesting state funds. When I totaled the requests of just the capital funds, it equaled $173 million. That does not include the $21 million requested for the Gateway Urban Campus, or the over $50 million from NKU for their desperate needs of space.

Long story short, I'd love to fund all of this, but it is not going to happen. The state is in tough financial shape. This is largely (in my opinion) due to the years of underfunding the state pension system. The potential exists that all new money in this next 2 year budget could be eaten up by the pension system, just to keep our head above water according to the actuaries.

There is one project from yesterday that I would like to see funded. It is a request for a youth drug treatment center here in Northern Kentucky. Currently there is no place to a youth to go to get treatment for drug addiction. A teenager would currently have to go to Lexington or Louisville to get treatment, if they can get in at all. We need to try to get these kids turned around and make them productive citizens. Otherwise, these tend to be the kids who fill our jails and our welfare rolls. Sometimes they become the kids who break their parents hearts by passing away much too early. Many projects can show the economic benefits by increased revenue and jobs. It is hard, if not impossible to quantify money saved by turning peoples lives around, and not having them supported by tax dollars for the rest of their lives, or the cost of lost productivity.

The cost is about $2 million to build it and $1.2 million to operate the first year. According to Mary Pat Behler who presented to us yesterday, it costs about $40,000 to incarcerate a juvenile, but $12,500 to put them through treatment.