To quote Mel Brooks, “It’s good to be the King!”, and it’s good to be the Governor when you have a budget surplus.
From the Courier Journal:
“FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky has ended the 2004-05 fiscal year with a surplus of $214 million, the first significant surplus in five years and the largest one since 1998.
By law, Gov. Ernie Fletcher has five options for the money. He said yesterday that he has chosen one so far: $90 million for the so-called rainy-day fund, which is used to cover unexpected revenue shortfalls.
He said he would not decide how to divide the remaining $124 million until at least mid-August.”
There is nothing a politician likes better than a nice budget surplus. I can already see the love fest happening in the legislature next session as each legislator works to get his or her share of pork for the home folks.
I agree with Ernie that $90 million should go to the rainy-day fund. This will make the Wall Street bankers that set our bond rates happy. While Kentucky does require a balanced budget, the state does not require that all of the debts be paid off at the end of the year. Having a good bond rate makes the debt service paid by the state a little easier. Remember that’s your tax dollars paying those debts.
Now the Yin and Yang of Kentucky budgets comes into play, for every good idea there is a bad one.
There are already proposals to spend $24 million of the projected remaining surplus for aircraft.
The breakdown on spending looks like this:
• $8 million for the Department of Military Affairs to buy a new plane to transport the governor and other state officials. It would seat six to eight passengers and replace a 1967 Cessna 172 valued at $30,000 and a 1965 Cessna 337 valued at $54,000. The old planes would be traded or sold.
• $6 million for the Department of Military Affairs to buy a new helicopter to transport the governor and other state officials. It would replace a 1975 Bell 206 with 14,088 hours. The old chopper has a retail value of $290,000 and could be sold or traded.
• $5.5 million for Kentucky State Police to replace a1971 Beechcraft King Air 200 that was acquired at no cost from the U.S. Army. That plane, which caused a panic in Wash-ington, D.C., last year, would be sold.
• $2 million for state police to buy a helicopter to replace a 1968 model. The old helicopter would be used for training and marijuana eradication. The new chopper would fly an estimated 400 hours a year at $300 an hour, for a total annual operating cost of $120,000.
• $2 million for state police to replace a 1983 Bell helicopter. The new aircraft would be operated about 400 hours a year at $600 an hour, for a total annual cost of $240,000.
• $800,000 for the Transportation Cabinet to replace its 39-year-old Piper Aztec, which shows signs of structural aging, corrosion and mechanical failure.
I have to agree with Debra Miller director of public policy for Kentucky Youth Advocates, when she said, "Given the fact that Kentucky has dropped to its lowest rating in 16 years in the health and welfare of its children, ranking 42nd among the 50 states, and considering our huge looming deficit of $675 million in Medicaid, people's needs should be a priority over airplanes and helicopters."
Screwed up priorities? Well yes, but what can you expect from an administration where the guy in charge can’t decide if he should tell the truth to a Grand Jury or take the Fifth Amendment.
From the Courier Journal:
“FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Gov. Ernie Fletcher said yesterday that he hasn't decided whether he would invoke the Fifth Amendment if called before a special grand jury investigating alleged illegal hiring by his administration.”