Williams skeptical about budget warning
Beshear has said outlook is 'dire'
FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Senate President David Williams continues to voice skepticism about Gov. Steve Beshear's recent warning of the "dire" financial outlook presented by the projected $294 million revenue shortfall this year.
"The fact that the revenue forecasters make this revenue forecast is not going to make me fall into his spin zone," Williams, R-Burkesville, said in an interview last week. "The man has declared some kind of catastrophe every few weeks since he's been in office."
Beshear, a Democrat, announced the projected shortfall late last month and said he would reach out to work with legislators on both sides of the political aisle in crafting a solution. He said that will require spending cuts and may require a tax increase.
If higher taxes are to be part of the solution, the governor will need an agreement with Williams, who successfully opposed Beshear's proposals early this year to raise
revenue by legalizing casinos and increasing the cigarette tax.
Williams sharply criticized Beshear for campaigning for opponents of Republican state Senate candidates and saying late last week that he would continue to try to
elect Democrats to the Senate in 2010.
"If we ever get the governor off the campaign trail, or ever get his fist out of our
face, we will be glad to talk to him. But up to this juncture he's not shown any
indication that he wants to do anything but keep his fist in our face," Williams
He said that isn't a smart approach for Beshear if he'll need votes on a tough budget-balancing bill from Republican senators up for election in 2010.
But Beshear spokesman Jay Blanton said the governor has reached out to Republicans and Democrats alike for cooperation in solving the budget problem and made no threats to Republicans.
Last week's election left Republicans with a 21-15 majority in the Senate...
...acting State Budget Director John Hicks noted that last year's budget was cut to meet a revenue shortfall, and many agencies and programs are being cut in the current budget.
Rep. Harry Moberly, the Richmond Democrat who is chairman of the House budget committee, said, "The situation is very serious because the budget we have right now is a very inadequate budget for education and human services. We can't sustain any more cuts without serious deterioration to our education system and real problems with human services."
Moberly said he favors a higher cigarette tax as part of the solution and supports an increase far higher than the 25-cent boost the House approved early this year but the Senate failed to consider.