Thursday, January 31, 2008

Governor's budget address

Here are some thoughts and highlights from the Governor's budget address given Tuesday night:

The Governor indicated that there would be no money taken away from the SEEK formula for K-12. That is something I can support. However, according to Mark Hebert from WHAS 11, that is not entirely true.

Regarding postsecondary education, the Governor cut higher ed about 9%. He said need based scholarship money would stay the same, but KEES money would be cut back.

On health care, said that this would have the largest amount of new funding. Also supported bonds for the Glasgow Nursing Home. I suppose this means that the state is in the nursing home business. That should not surprise me. But it does beg the question, why are we in that business. Maybe in these tight times we should examine the possiblity of getting out of it.

No cuts in Agriculture and Coal Severance programs.

He uses most of the rainy day fund.

My favorite part, he cut in half the reliance on one time money, something the state needs to get away from.

But in the end, this just a starting point. The House will now create their version, and the Senate will do the same.

A little overwhelmed

Sorry about the lack of posts. I hope to catch up some in the next few days, so keep checking back.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Budget address

Tonight is the Governor's budget address. You can watch it on KET at 7:00.

I am looking forward to seeing what the Governor recommends regarding getting out of the deficit that is looming. Rumor is that everyone is going to get the ax.

One disappointment is that all House Republicans were supposed to get briefed on the speech at 3:00 today, but the "rank and file" have been essentially kicked out, and only our leadership will be briefed. Sad, but the way things run down here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Things got exciting today

Today during a debate on a bill that has to do with allowing public universities the ability to issue bonds for revenue generating projects on their own, the issue of prevailing wage became the focus.

The issue was brought up by my friend, Rep. Tim Moore of Elizabethtown. He brought up how we could save money on these university projects by repealing the prevailing wage law. Well, I got a good glimpse of the fervent support the issue has in the House. The supporters of prevailing wage could not jump up fast enough to defend this policy.

I applaud my friend for starting the conversation. My guess is that it is not over.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Plodding along

We are moving along slowly right now, passing about 2 to 4 bills a day. That is not too bad, I think things are moving quicker than they did last year. I am told that things will kick into high gear next week. Tuesday is the filing deadline, so everyone knows what they are up against. Then Tuesday night is the Governor's budget address, where we expect to learn the plan for the budget, and for the pension fix.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Meeting with the Governor

Has the chance to meet with the Governor for 5 minuted yesterday in his office. Nothing earth shattering happened, just basically a get to know one another session. Governor Beshear has stated he has an open door policy, and so far it is true.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Survey results

As many of you know, I sent out a survey this year to get feedback from you my constituents. The survey consisted of 10 questions, and I received the results back on Friday. I thought you might be interested in seeing the results. A few points first. On Question #1, there was much confusion as to the question, so many people put no answer (so were counted as no opinion) but then wrote out to the side that they were against partial birth abortion. So the results there are skewed low. This is my fault for not having a better worded question, and a lesson I will learn from for future surveys.

1. Should the General Assembly pass legislation that would modify Kentucky's partial birth abortion law to mirror the provisions of federal law?

Yes: 48%
No: 33%
No opinion: 19%

2. Do you agree or disagree that writing portfolios should be removed from the statewide CATS testing for elementary schools providing that these schools use writing portfolios as part of the continuous assessment process?

Agree: 58%
Disagree: 16%
No opinion: 26%

3. Would you favor legislation that eliminates the runoff primary election for gubernatorial slates?

Yes: 38%
No: 40%
No Opinion: 22%

4. Do you agree or disagree that state agencies, including public colleges and universities, should be prohibited from offering health insurance to domestic partners of employees?

Agree: 70%
Disagree: 26%
No opinion: 4%

5. Do you agree or disagree that the CATS assessment should be restructured for all students K-12?

Agree: 61%
Disagree: 10%
No Opinion: 29%

6. Do you agree or disagree that there should be a constitutional amendment that limits punitive damages awarded in a medical malpractice lawsuit?

Agree: 77%
Disagree 19%
No opinion: 4%

7. Do you think the General Assembly should pass legislation to legalize the sale of raw milk?

Yes: 21%
No: 44%
No opinion: 35%

8. Do you think the General Assembly should appropriate funds to the Blue Grass Airport for relocation of the shorter runway?

Yes: 28%
No: 54%
No opinion: 18%

9. Do you favor offering a tax exemption for active duty military and reserve pay?

Yes: 84%
No: 10%
No opinion: 6%

10. Do you agree or disagree that the benefits for future state employees should be scaled back in order to help avoid a looming pension crisis?

Yes: 58%
No: 32%
No opinion: 10%

Thanks to all who participated!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

First bills hit the floor

On Day 8 we had the first bills come to the House Floor today. The were two bills and one resolution. One bill that I signed on as a co-sponsor was HB 104, a bill to stagger the terms of the Board of Directors of 4 community and technical colleges across the state, including our own Gateway Community and Technical College. Doesn't sound very exciting, but it is good public policy to provide continuity in the Board.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My first bill this session

I have submitted my first bill for this session. Below is a press release I sent out on it. Thanks to Covington Officer Gary Smallwood, who brought this issue to my attention this summer.

Representative Koenig Files Legislation to Aid Active Duty Police Officers

Frankfort, KY- When city and county police officers who are members of the National Guard are called to duty, they lose a stipend that is received yearly after completing police academy training. State Representative Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) has filed legislation to remedy this misstep.
House Bill 309 would allow police officers activated for service to continue receiving payments from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund (KLEFPF) without counting the payments against retirement benefits.
"Numerous police officers across the Commonwealth perform double duty by also serving in the National Guard," said Representative Koenig. "Unfortunately, instead of rewarding and honoring them, we penalize them. I realize what a disservice this is and I am committed to correcting the problem."
Any police officer, city or county, who completes 840 hours of police academy training and 100 hours of yearly continuing training, qualifies to receive a stipend from KLEFPF totaling approximately $3,100 a year. When an officer fails to meet the required hours for continued training, they lose the stipend. This creates an obvious problem for active duty officers who are deployed and, therefore, unable to complete the training.
Representative Koenig added, "In no way is this legislation intended to relieve our police officers from the rigorous training that is required of them. Instead, it is a way to thank those individuals who place themselves in harm's way everyday. Whether deployed to foreign soil or protecting our communities, police officers deserve our gratitude."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The State of the Commonwealth address

Last night was the State of the Commonwealth address, given by Governor Beshear. Overall it was a good speech, very similar to the themes laid out in his inaugural address. The speech was short, which we appreciate. It was long on specifics and short on substance. It is my understanding that the specifics will be laid out in the budget address on January 29th.

My favorite part of the speech was when the Governor said that the status quo is no longer acceptable. I could not agree more with that statement. Of course, my vision of what needs to change and the Governor's vision may be completely different. But I am glad that he is open to change.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Why are we in this budget situation?

Generally speaking I am going to try to avoid just putting up links, but this story explains in part why we are facing the deficit we are today.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Is the budget situation a crisis or something less?

That is the question I have been trying to determine.

There are two issues, first the current Fiscal Year situation, and next years budget problem.

First, the current year. We are told that there is a $434 million shortfall for this Fiscal Year. That is broken down as follows:

$130 million less than budgeted,
$138 million in higher authorized spending
$166 million in "additional spending needs."

Now, as far as the $130 million less than budgeted, that I take at face value. However, for the entire 2 year budget, we are projected to take in $70 million more than anticipated. So for the overall budget revenue is not a problem. In fact, money remaining from the last Fiscal Year is being used to make up some of this years deficit.

My concern is with the categorization of $166 million in additional spending needs as part of a deficit. My example is, if I request $1 million dollars for something, does that push the deficit up another million? Just because something is identified as additional spending needs, doesn't make it part of a deficit. Now, the $166 million request includes $112 million for Medicaid spending and $22 million for Corrections. No one wants people to go without health care or see prisoners let out. However, requests should not just be added to a deficit automatically.

The next issue is the budget for future years. I have written about this previously, that next years projected revenue is $500 million less than this years budgeted spending. This is a problem, but can be solved in large part, if not completely, by repealing the prevailing wage law.

Monday night is the State of the Commonwealth address. I look forward to hearing the Governors plan.

Friday, January 11, 2008

First week in the books

4 days down, 56 more to go.

It has been an interesting week. I hope to post some this weekend on some facts and figures, mainly about the budget.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Day 2

Completed Day 2 today. Things seem to move slowly at first, but there is some reorganization to be done, bills to be introduced, etc. It is all a necessary part of the legislative process.

Also, I would like to congratulate Alecia Webb-Edgington, the newest member of the Northern Kentucky delegation. Alecia will be a great member of the delegation, and should be sworn in Friday afternoon.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

First day

Well we completed the first of our 60 day session today. Filled mostly with pro forma activities, but all needs to be done to make things function.

One sight to see was the employees of the Legislative Research Commission walking around with these large manila envelops, filled with copies of proposed bills that other State Representatives asked to be drawn up. Mine was relatively small. Others were not, meaning they intended to either file many bills, or some very voluminous bills.

Tonight there is a reception being hosted by the Governor at the Mansion for the members of the legislature.

It is session time

At noon today the General Assembly convenes for a 60 day session. I am looking forward to getting started and representing you in Frankfort.

Please feel free to let me know your opinions. You can e-mail me at If you want to share an opinion on a piece of legislation or an issue, you can call toll free 800-372-7181. If you would like to get a tour or see the legislature in action, please call 502-564-8100 and ask for Capella McFarland who is my assistant.

Monday, January 7, 2008

How else can we solve budget problems?

Gov. Beshear has implemented a 3% across the board cut for much of state government in order to balance the budget. Something has to be done and he has had to make some difficult decisions already. Tough decisions come with the lofty position he now holds and I am glad that he has shown the backbone to make some.

But what else can be done. As I stated in an earlier post, repealing the prevailing wage law would help. Take NKU for instance. NKU has to cut $1.6 million in this budget year. This on the heels of building the Bank of Kentucky Center, a $64 million project. Because of the prevailing wage law, the project cost about $4-6 million more than it would have otherwise. That is our tax money being spent on inflated salaries.

So what could we do with $4-6 million dollars? Well, that would cover the shortfall for NKU, as well as Morehead State University, and possibly Western Kentucky University. All from one project. Imagine the money that could be saved if we eliminated prevailing wage from all public projects.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Thanks Senator Roeding

State Senator Dick Roeding has announced his retirement from the legislature, choosing not to run for re-election this year. I would like to take the opportunity to thank him for his service to Northern Kentucky. Sen. Roeding has spent 18 years in the State Legislature working on behalf of all of us. He spent many years in leadership, and therefore gave Northern Kentucky a seat at the table in the State Senate.

Sen. Roeding has been very helpful to me over the years, and has always been generous with his time. I would also like to recognize his wife Nancy, who has had to put up with a lot over the years, as every politicians spouse must. She is a wonderful person and I wish them many years of good health and happiness in retirement.