Local legislators approve of Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth

Owensboro area state legislators gave favorable marks to Gov. Steve Beshear’s “State of the Commonwealth” address, but said they’re waiting to hear more specifics from the governor about his budget proposal.

In his address last week, Beshear asked for bipartisanship between Republicans and Democrats when addressing the state’s budget woes. The state faces a revenue shortfall and a hole in its 2010-12 budget of between $1.5 billion and $900 million. Beshear’s office and the Senate Republican leadership disagree on the extent of the deficit.

“The public wants something done with this,” said Rep. Jim Glenn, an Owensboro Democrat. “The public wants us to work together.”

Sen. David Boswell, a Sorgho Democrat, said Beshear did “a commendable job” with the address.

“I thought he did as good a job as he could, under the given circumstance,” Boswell said. ” … He emphasized we need to approach the problem on a bipartisan note and put all (differences) aside and deal with this for the good of all people. I agree with him 110 percent.”

Boswell said he agreed with Beshear that job creation is a top priority. “(Beshear) highlighted some of the jobs that have been created under his administration,” Boswell said. “I’ll say this … the adminstration has been very aggressive in trying to help with the job losses in our community.” The state economic development cabinet worked to retain jobs at General Electric and other Owensboro area business that have announced layoffs, Boswell said.

Rep. Dwight Butler, a Harned Republican, said Beshear’s address was “a good start.” Butler said Beshear’s failed effort in 2009 to create a Democratic majority in the Senate – by offering top Republicans positions elsewhere and hoping for success in the resulting special elections – could make bipartisanship difficult.

“I think that’s going to make it a little tough with the Senate,” Butler said. ” … I hope they can get it worked out. We have to work together.”

Beshear’s attempt to change the Senate was “just politics,” Butler said. “You just have to put it behind you and work together,” he said.

Butler said government will need to take a broad approach to dealing with the budget deficit.

“I’ve been talking with some people about being more efficient,” Butler said. “The whole system is going to have to be looked at … go through the system, where we have duplication, whether or not we’re getting the services we might need.

“It has to be looked at from each department also,” Butler said. “We need to see where the flaws are, where the problems are in our system.” Budget cuts should not be made equally across every state office, but should be made only where inefficiencies are found, Butler said.

Sen. Jerry Rhoads, a Madisonville Democrat and a member of the minority leadership in the Senate, said he thought Beshear’s speech “succeeded in his effort to (strike) a bipartisan tone.”

“We don’t have the luxury of partisanship,” Rhoads said. “It’s going to be a difficult enough problem to address. It’s going to be difficult if we don’t work in a bipartisan way.”

Beshear’s address focused primarily on what already has been done to create jobs – such as the passage of an incentives bill last year – and to streamline government.

“It’s not unusual for a governor to list the progress made under his administration,” Rhoads said. For now, legislators are waiting to see Beshear’s proposed 2010-12 budget, which will be released Jan. 19.

“I don’t think it’s surprising he didn’t get into specifics” during the address, Rhoads said. The session will likely not produce a new incentives bill similar to the one passed last year, Rhoads said.

“We put in place the package of incentives (Beshear) wanted in the last session,” Rhoads said. “… I think he feels he has the tools he needs in place.” The General Assembly could meet in a special session if additional incentives were needed to attract an businesses that would not locate in Kentucky otherwise, Rhoads said.

“I think, more than anything, he was trying to set the tone” for the session, Rhoads said of Beshear’s address. “A positive and bipartisan tone.”

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Beshear attends Glenn fundraiser

Despite citing scheduling conflicts ealier, Gov. Steve Beshear made an appearance Monday night at an Owensboro fundraiser for Rep. Jim Glenn.

Beshear stopped in at the home of Claire Neal on Fieldcrest Drive for about 20 minutes with his wife, Jane, before heading to a town hall meeting in Henderson, according to Glenn.

“They made an adjustment to his schedule,” said Glenn, an Owensboro Democrat who is running for a second term representing the 13th House district. “We had a nice turnout.”

Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo was supposed to headline the event that also drew House Speaker Jody Richards of Bowling Green and state Treasurer Todd Hollenbach.

Among the legislators attending the event were Rep. Joni Jenkins of Louisville, who is running for speaker pro tem and is backed by Richards for that post. Also in attendance was Johnny Bell, a Glasgow Democrat who is running unopposed this year, and former governor and U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, Glenn said.

Moneywise, the event was productive, according to Glenn, though he didn’t have a tally of what he raised.

“We got a bowl full of checks, so we raised a good sum of money,” Glenn said. “The money is still coming in.”

Through June 30, Glenn had about $21,000 in cash on hand for his campaign compared to about the $11,000 his Republican opponent, Owensboro businessman Ben Boarman, had in his campaign chest.

Boarman said last week that he has since supassed the $20,000 mark for his campaign.

Scenes from the town hall

More from Gov. Steve Beshear’s stop as at Apollo High School Monday night for his “Beshear About Kentucky” tour –

The high school’s auditorium, which seats about 300, was mostly packed and organizer Chad Aull, director of constituent services for the governor, said it was one of the largest in the 13-event series. Of course, Aull is a Philpot native, and could be more generous to his home community when estimating crowd size.

When Beshear arrived, people were still lined up outside because of a delays from people signing in, and the governor told the organizers to let folks to come in and sign in later.

Before opening the floor to questions, Beshear offered about 10 minutes of remarks in which he touched on this summer’s special session to deal with pension reform and the challenges this spring to balance the budget.

Beshear also mentioned job creation, and specifically noted his recent week-long trip to Japan that has prompted criticism after The State Journal reported on the detailed costs of the $86,000 trip. Continue reading

Beshear in Owensboro on Monday for press conference, town hall meeting

Gov. Steve Beshear will bring his “Beshear About Kentucky” listening tour to Owensboro Monday night.

The event, which allows residents to ask questions of the governor and cabinet secretaries and offer suggestions, begins at 6 p.m. at Apollo High School at 2280 Tamarack Road.

While in town, Beshear has also scheduled a 4:30 p.m. press conference with Rep. Tommy Thompson, a Philpot Democrat, to talk about home foreclosure relief.

Beshear spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said little information will be released prior to the press conference, which is being held at 2431 Ford Ave. – a home built by the Philpot legislator’s company, Thompson Homes, and featured in this year’s Parade of Homes.

Beshear will also stop in the McLean County town of Sacramento earlier in the day to present a ceremonial check there for a housing assistance grant.

Update…

Beshear will be talking about House Bill 552 at this afternoon’s press conference on Ford Avenue.

The bill, sponsored by Thompson and passed this spring, establishes the Kentucky Homeownership Protection Center that is designed to provide homeowners with information about how to avoid foreclosure. The new law, which went into effect last month, also puts in place new requirements for mortgage lenders.

House Bill 552 passed both chambers without opposition.

Beshear in western Kentucky tomorrow

Gov. Steve Beshear will be making the rounds in western Kentucky Thursday afternoon before heading to Madisonville for his next town hall meeting.

The governor will be at the Merle Travis Music Center in Powderly at 12:15 p.m. for a check presentation to Muhlenberg County for housing rehabilitation and will then head to Dawson Springs, Princeton and Sturgis for similar events in those communities.

His “Beshear About Kentucky” event at Byrnes Auditorium at 750 N. Laffoon Drive in Madisonville begins at 6 p.m.

This will be Beshear’s first stop in western Kentucky on his “listening tour,” which appear to be eliciting some response and ideas from those attending. At an event Monday night in Raceland near Ashland, The Daily Independent reports that folks asked him about illegal immigration, job development, casino gambling and health care.

Beshear will be in Bowling Green on Aug. 6, Owensboro on Aug. 11 and Henderson on Aug. 18 as part of the tour.

The listening tour continues…

Gov. Steve Beshear has the next stop in his “listening tour” of the state on Monday in Raceland on Monday, and The Daily Independent of Ashland has a look ahead at the governor’s next visit.

Beshear was in Winchester Thursday night, and the main topic reported in the media was the cigarette tax increase, which apparently received some support from the crowd of 200. Read the Herald-Leader’s account of the town hall meeting here – Alessi does include some of the ideas offered by attendees, including a light rails system for central Kentucky and a school supply tax holiday.

So far – at least from what is being reported – the first three town hall meetings of the 13 Beshear has planned for this month and next don’t seem to be brimming with too many new ideas from the public or a host of new proposals from the governor. If Beshear is using these stops to help him craft his agenda for the 2009 legislative session, at this point it appears that game plan will be similar to the one offered this spring.

It will be interesting to see what the end result of these meetings is and if perhaps, as is usually the case, the meetings are generating more content, feedback and discussion than can fit into a newspaper account.

Hopefully along with covering the Aug. 11 town hall meeting here in Owensboro, I’ll be able to sit in on a few others along the way when he stops in Henderson, Bowling Green and Madisonville and get a clearer picture of what Beshear and the people are saying.

Ellis Park owner named to governor’s horse racing study group

Ellis Park owner Ron Geary, who made headlines this summer when he threatened to close the Henderson race track, has been named to a horse racing study group.

Beshear signed and executive order Thursday appointing the members of the 12-member “Governor’s Task Force on the Future of Horse Racing.”

The group will “study the economic soundness of the industry, the effectiveness and quality of drug testing, the oversight role of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission and the adequacy of state laws and regulations,” according to a press release from Beshear’s office.

Geary joins Nick Nicholson, the president and CEO of Keeneland Asssociation, and Churchill Downs President Steve Sexton as representatives of the horse track industry on the task force.

Geary came close to ending racing at his track just before the start of racing dates there on July 4 following a hearing in U.S. District Court in Owensboro. Geary said he had decided to close the track after a federal judge turned down his request for an injunction against Kentucky horsemen that would have allowed him to offer Ellis races to national account wagering outlets.

But after Geary and the horsemen reached a compromise on the issue, the park re-opened to racing on July 11.