Gov. Steve Beshear finally looked in a mirror, discovered he’s not Ernie Fletcher and started making some sense. The Guv came out in support of Kentucky education reform, a 70-cent cigarette tax increase and voting rights for reformed felons. Momentarily reFletcherizing, he strongly hinted that casino gambling is dead in the water. In other butt news, a new survey (at www.kyyouth.org) shows that one in four pregnant women in Kentucky smoke. Possibly coming to the rescue is California Rep. Henry Waxman, whose 20-year effort to bring cigs under FDA control is gaining momentum.
The Kentucky House passed a bill to give tax breaks for installing renewable energy systems in homes or businesses; meanwhile, a desperately needed “Stream Saver” bill actually got a hearing, thanks to a wild parliamentary “camel ride.” Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, attached the surface-mining measure to a bogus bill giving “tax breaks to camels” (as opposed to Camel Lights) just to force a discussion. Putting a damper on those good environmental efforts was this bummer: Kentucky’s environmental agencies face 20-percent cuts in the governor’s proposed budget.
Taking a cue from the downsizing experts at Ford, Kentucky is offering state workers retirement buyouts. Some 5,400 state workers are eligible for enhanced benefits if they retire by Jan. 1. The state would save $180 million by not replacing them or hiring cheaper help. Meanwhile, the House Budget Committee approved a bill that authorizes the use of tolls to finance “megaprojects,” which is code for “bridges,” put presumably could also finance a soul transplant for Democratic Rep. Jim Gooch.