Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Monday, November 14, 2005

House seat for the 88th a race - for the GOP

It was reported in today's Herald-Leader that the primary for the 88th legislative district will present a choice for Republicans. Fred Brown, former Lexington city councilman, has announced his intentions to run for the seat.

Hmm. Two Republicans, both accountants. Any differences?

Farmer is a relatively inactive rep who tends to vote the GOP party line. He hasn't particularly spearheaded anything pleasing or offensive.

Fred Brown, who is definitely noticeable as a politico, has both plusses and minuses.

On the one hand, he was described as 'invaluable' when it came time to do the Lexington budget. A legislator who can complete a budget has been a rarity in Frankfort during recent years.

On the other hand, he did everything he could to block passage of Lexington's Fairness Ordinance, calling job protection 'special rights'. He was also a pivotal figure in the failure of a December 2004 attempt to put the issue of water company ownership up to a public vote.

The Republicans, it seems, have to decide between a shrinking violet who hasn't done much in office and a strong (but narrow-minded) personality whose scope of influence will be strongly limited as a freshman rep. First-time representatives are ineligible to serve on the Appropriations and Revenue Committee, which oversees state spending.

What about the Democrats, you ask?

So far, no one has put their name forward. If members of the GOP think that their own incumbent is a do-nothing, what is stopping Democrats in the 88th from considering a run?

Just wondering.

Sarah G

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

How Much Does Economic Development Money Help Kentucky's Citizens?

The following press release was forwarded to me by Kristin Stratton of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development. Considering the amount of money the state spends on economic development and how little information is available to the public we need to pay close attention to the effect those dollars have. I believe the information below is important to all Kentucky Citizens. Please take a few minutes to read what these citizens have to say.


Mountain Association for Community Economic Development
Contact: Justin Maxson

November 7, 2005

Kentucky spends more than $800 million a year on economic development programs with little accountability for how the money is spent, according to a newly released study by the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED).

The study shows that in 2004 the state spent 79 percent of its economic development money on subsidizing businesses and recruiting industry and spent relatively little on programs that develop home-grown businesses and jobs. State records show recipients of state economic development benefits include some of America's richest corporations, such as Wal-Mart and the Weyerhaeuser Corporation, a global wood-products manufacturer.

Over the past six years Kentucky spent $4.6 billion on economic development programs, the study says. About 60 percent of the state's economic development spending, primarily in the form of tax breaks, does not require any reporting from the business or evaluation from the state, the report indicated.

Economic development spending is scattered among 15 state agencies, and no single agency evaluates all of the spending programs, the report says.

" Kentucky has handed out billions of dollars to businesses, many of them out-of-state corporations, trusting that this investment will pay off," said Justin Maxson, MACED president. "Not only is the state gambling with our money, we don't even bother to count the chips to see whether we’re winning or losing. Where’s the accountability?"

In recent years the state has approved sizeable tax credits and cash incentives to large corporations.

• Since 1993 the state has given Weyerhaeuser Corporation, one of the world's largest forest-product corporations, $300 million in tax incentives and credits for promising to create approximately 300 jobs, a cost of $1 million per job.
• In the past 12 years Kentucky has given Wal-Mart, the world's largest corporation, $43 million in tax breaks and incentives for distribution centers.
• In 1999 the state and local governments gave Sykes Enterprises $7.6 million in cash and tax incentives to place two call centers in Eastern Kentucky. By 2004 both call centers had closed and the jobs had moved off-shore.

"The state should be encouraging a diverse economy with diverse economic development efforts, not putting all its eggs in the one basket of smoke stack chasing," Maxson said. "We need to be investing more in what is unique about Kentucky, locally owned businesses with real market opportunity and home-grown entrepreneurs. We need to invest in good ideas and the people to carry them out locally."

Kentucky has ranked 42nd in the United States in per-capita income for the past 34 years. Since 1980, Kentucky workers have dropped from earning 92 percent of the national annual average annual wage and salary per job to earning 85 percent of the national average.

MACED tracked state appropriations and tax breaks for economic development from 1999 to 2004.

The MACED report contains the following recommendations.

• Create a statewide plan that unifies economic development programs.
• Improve evaluation of economic development spending.
• Build an expiration date into tax-break legislation so the legislature will have to reauthorize it, rather than allowing it to continue without evaluation.
• Expand economic development spending on education, workforce development and high-tech business development, rather than relying on industrial recruitment and tax subsidies.

MACED, based in Berea, is a 30-year-old nonprofit community development corporation that works to improve the quality of life in eastern Kentucky and Central Appalachia by creating economic opportunity, strengthening democracy and supporting the sustainable use of natural resources. To access the report go to or contact MACED at 859-986-2373.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Fundraising for 2007 Governor's Race

I know it is hard to believe, but with his party split over the hiring mess, Governor Fletcher is planning to run again in 2007 and is hard at work raising funds for the race. As a Democrat, I welcome having the Republicans run Fletcher, or better yet, get locked into a nasty primary season that drains the party of funds and tarnishes everyone involved. I can't think of a better way to place the Governor's office back in Democratic hands.

By the time this investigation into merit job hiring practices has concluded our governor could well be facing impeachment proceedings. It takes an amazing amount of arrogance for Fletcher to be out holding fundraisers for an upcoming election. Still, I have to wonder what makes Fletcher think he can win? Only 17% or registered voters say they would vote for Fletcher if the election were held today. Many influential Republicans seem to think the state and party would be better off if the tarnished white knight occupying the governor's mansion fell on his sword for the good of the party.

Smart Democrats will sit quietly on the sidelines and watch Fletcher inflict damage on his party. If they are really smart they will select only one candidate for the Governor's race and unite behind their choice to retake the governor's office. Of course, Democrats are not frequently smart when it comes to campaigning these days. We may well manage to throw away this golden opportunity for politics as usual Kentucky style.