Puff piece

Jan 7, 2009 at 6:00 am

Watching David Williams maneuver as the Republican leader in Frankfort is like seeing Goliath battle a hundred little Davids.

He is a man tall in stature and conviction whose prowess as a legislator is matched only by his righteous lust for morality. The senator from Burkesville wields a kind of power that can convince allegories of their ineptitude, bend them to fit his own testament. He is a restless, able visionary who sees in the state of Kentucky a breezy paradise where everyone is fed and fat from the land, warm and content as the flames of the coal fire lick their toes.

Blocking Williams’s utopia are, for the most part, Frankfort Democrats, many of whom have put their radical social agendas before a more communal approach to the future. They are harming the state in the process.

Privately, this irks Williams. His is a fierce brand of justice that is never blind and never flinches. Publicly, however, he has enjoyed exercising his wit, playing pet games with his fellow legislators via the press when it comes to things like Gov. Steve Beshear’s first-term initiative to pass legislation allowing casino gambling in the commonwealth — which, in a brilliant stroke of modern politics, Williams helped defeat.

Take any complicated issue — the problem du jour, a $456 million budget shortfall in state government — and Williams can break it down into something anyone educated in the post-KERA era can comprehend.

“I’m not going — and this General Assembly is not going — to be rushed into anything,” Williams told the C-J Monday, his Boss Hog drawl on prominent display. He’d been sucked into yet another challenge by Beshear, whose penchant for raising taxes is matched only by his affinity for looking like any other old white guy in a suit. The governor, in another predictably liberal maneuver, has suggested raising taxes on tobacco products to help cover the shortfall, a notion Williams has rejected in the past.

“We have an obligation to look at all cost-saving measures that can be applied,” Williams continued. “We’re not going to just go ahead and pass some taxes on various things and put money in a system that’s structurally imbalanced.”

His suggestions for where to look for extra money were predictably brilliant — Williamsian, if you will.

First was Medicaid, that drag on taxpayer money that helps the elderly and less fortunate remain alive and with some modicum of good health. Clearly a source of government bloat, the handout program would be reduced, if not eliminated altogether, in Williams’s ideal world. In 2006, Kentucky spent close to a billion dollars on Medicaid. Williams has called for a full review of spending, although he has yet to offer an estimate of the cost of such a study.

People on Medicaid are also more likely to be smokers. To Williams, who continues to advocate against an increase in the state cigarette tax — from 30 cents to $1 per pack — on ideological grounds, this is another inconvenient truth proffered by disingenuous Democrats. Kentucky has the highest rates of smoking and lung cancer in the country, and one of the lowest tax rates on tobacco. It also has a glut of tobacco farmers whose product has fallen out of favor as its deleterious health effects have been revealed worldwide.

Second is education. Williams wants to try again to kill CATS, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System. CATS tests traditional skills, like math and science. As well, it includes a writing requirement, and can be used to test students with various kinds of learning disabilities. In terms of government spending, Williams has made clear, this is extraneous.

Williams didn’t set out to be a savior for the huddled masses of conservatives across Kentucky who have no representation in government. However, he has become their unwitting leader, a voice of reason in the chorus of the churlish tax-and-spend liberals dominating Frankfort and sending the commonwealth into a tailspin of bureaucracy from which it will become only more difficult to recover.

As criticism over Beshear’s mishandling of casino gambling, new taxes and government efficiency mounts, Williams will again be the go-to when it comes time to put the Democrats in their place.