Thursday, June 11, 2009

King on economy, labor committee

Frankfort – State Rep. Martha Jane King has been named to a multi-state legislative committee that focuses on economic and labor issues, House Speaker Greg Stumbo announced today.

Rep. King, D-Lewisburg, will serve this year and next on the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Labor and Economic Development Committee, which is playing a crucial role as the states look for ways to improve their economy while lowering unemployment rates.

“This committee will benefit from Martha Jane’s deep knowledge of these issues,” Speaker Stumbo said. “This role will also give her a chance to learn more about what has worked in other states and how these successes can help Kentucky move ahead.”

“I really appreciate getting this opportunity and look forward to the challenge,” said Rep. King. “As Kentucky and states around the nation find ways to survive and ultimately overcome these difficult economic times, sharing information becomes more important than ever.”

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) is a bipartisan organization that serves legislators in all 50 states; its annual meeting is scheduled for Louisville next year, an event that will bring thousands of state legislators, staff and their families to the Commonwealth.

New Jeff Davis Park manager

Kentucky Department of Parks News Release:

Combs Named Park Manager At Jefferson Davis State Historic Site

FAIRVIEW, Ky. – William Matthew Combs has been named park manager at Jefferson Davis State Historic Site at Fairview.

Combs, a Wolfe County native who has worked for the Kentucky State Parks for seven years, previously served as the front desk supervisor at Natural Bridge State Resort Park.

Jefferson Davis State Historic Site is a memorial to the famous Kentuckian born there in 1808. A 351-foot monument completed in 1924 marks Davis' birthplace and rests on a foundation of solid Kentucky limestone. The visitor's center features exhibits detailing Davis' political life before and after the Civil War, and offers Kentucky handcrafts, souvenirs, books and Civil War memorabilia.

For more information about Jefferson Davis State Historic Site and other parks, visit

Power resigns from school board

We had this email come in from the school system central office on Wednesday (June 10):

Deana Power has resigned as school board member, effective immediately. Ms. Power has decided to return to the teaching field.

What made Deana a good board member was that she was a former teacher and she didn't mind making tough calls.

It is unclear, in this year with no elections in the fall, who will be appointed to fill the remainder of her term.

Governor on revenue

Budget op-ed
June 11, 2009
Gov. Steve Beshear
Kentucky is not alone in its financial misery.

From the East Coast to the West Coast, states are facing enormous revenue shortfalls ranging from hundreds of millions to billions of dollars, and many have been forced to slash key programs and raise taxes.

In Kentucky, where our projected shortfall for the coming year has been officially set at $996 million, or 10.7 percent of our General Fund budget, I’m recommending we do neither.

Raising taxes in this economic climate would increase the hardship on our families and businesses.

And hacking away at key priorities like education, health care and public safety would do serious harm, I believe, in both the short and long term.

In fact, it’s only by preserving investments in areas like education that we will be able to climb out of and stay out of this economic recession.

That’s the message I’m conveying to the General Assembly in the days leading up to the June 15 special session, which I called to balance the General Fund budget before the start of the fiscal year on July 1.

The budget plan I have unveiled would balance the budget primarily by thoughtful and appropriate use of federal stimulus dollars and by cutting $200 million in spending beyond the $600 million we’ve cut since I took office – a process that will require the same sort of sacrifices our families are making.

We’d also restructure our debt, enhance our tax collections efforts by filling empty positions in the Revenue Department and suspend some paid holidays for state workers to avoid mass layoffs, a proposal that would also apply to me. I’ve also agreed – as have members of my senior staff – to keep in a place a 10 percent salary cut we voluntarily took last year.

The budget plan I’m recommending to the General Assembly includes no proposals to increase taxes. It sets aside hundreds of millions in stimulus dollars to plug anticipated holes in the 2011 budget. And it reduces spending in a thoughtful way that preserves basic education funding, fully funds Medicaid and maintains key areas of public safety like prisons, prosecutors and state police.

Kentucky will never move forward if we take significant steps backward in these areas today.

In this way, my plan carries out the two goals I’ve had ever since I became governor and began to realize the impact of this global economic crisis on the Commonwealth:

First, helping people in our state survive.

Second, finding ways to make strategic investments that will position our state to move forward.

I have put three other issues on the agenda for the session:

A focused reform of our economic incentives packages to enhance our ability to attract and retain many thousands of jobs and renowned events like a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.

An effort to create a mechanism to fund mega-projects between Kentucky and Indiana such as the Louisville bridges.

And saving Kentucky’s struggling equine industry by authorizing Video Lottery Terminals at licensed horse racetracks, an initiative that would help improve race purses and breeder incentives while also bringing in significant money for the general fund.

Gaming proceeds would create a recurring source of revenue that would support our priority investments once the federal stimulus funds are depleted.

While balancing the budget in a way that causes the least harm to our families and our future is my No. 1 goal, I believe these are three issues that require quick action to either take advantage of economic and tourist opportunities or protect Kentucky institutions.

Meanwhile, we continue to take steps to deal with depressed revenues in the Road Fund, which is expected to fall $239 million short in the 2010 Fiscal Year, or 17 percent.

Dealing with that shortfall, as with the General Fund, will require bold but steady action.

And we must be thoughtful.

The economy will recover, but it is expected to recover slowly.

In solving the problem for the coming year, we must be mindful of the years that follow. Economists predict we will not return to 2008 revenue levels for three more years.

And we have less cushion. This is the third straight year of a significant budget shortfall.

In previous years, we have relied on our rainy day fund and other transfers to help balance our budget. But those funds are depleted.

In fact, because of depressed tax receipts and those depleted funds, we begin Fiscal Year 2010 with $636 million less in General Fund resources than we are spending this fiscal year.

These are the numbers that require us to be strategic and responsible.

These are the numbers I have shared with the General Assembly during conversations over the last few weeks. I look forward to the dialogue that follows.

By working together, we will get through this difficult time.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Todd County native to run for U.S. Senate

This is a post from the Bluegrass Politics Blog that is staffed by The Lexington Herald Leader:

FRANKFORT – A U.S. Navy veteran from Todd County announced his candidacy Wednesday for next year’s Republican primary election in the race for U.S. Senate.

Bill Johnson, 43, who works as a procurement manager for BP, is making his first bid for public office. He said he plans to run whether GOP incumbent Jim Bunning stays in the race or not.

Bunning says he is running for re-election next year, but that has not stopped other Republicans from expressing interest in entering the race.

Other potential Republican candidates include Secretary of State Trey Grayson; Cathy Bailey, a former U.S. ambassador to Latvia; and Rand Paul, a Bowling Green ophthalmologist who is the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

Two major Democratic candidates already in the race are Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo, who narrowly lost to Bunning in 2004.

In a news release, Johnson said he respects Bunning “but it is time for new Republican leadership in Washington.

“The land of opportunity is becoming the land of limited prosperity as government grows, the national debt increases, and manufacturing moves offshore. I want to be a voice for concerned citizens who have ‘had enough’ of politicians violating our trust.”

Johnson graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1988 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. He received a Master’s degree in business administration from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va., in 1995.

Johnson served 10 years in the U. S. Navy and worked in a nuclear program. He now works for BP.

Johnson and his wife, Delinda Johnson, formerly of Casey County, have two children.

He said is a private pilot and aviation enthusiast and has logged over 900 hours of flight time since 1982.

–Jack Brammer

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Whitfield to seek re-election

Whitfield Statement on 2010 Plans

WASHINGTON – U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield (KY-01) released the following statement today, announcing his intention to run for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.

“Representing the First Congressional District of Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 15 years has been an honor and a privilege. During that time, I have been fortunate to meet with thousands of constituents and vote on important legislation which has made a positive impact on the everyday lives of Kentucky residents. With our economy still reeling and controversial energy legislation being pushed forward that will have an enormous impact on Kentuckians, a strong voice to represent the First District in Washington is more important than ever. That is why I intend to run for re-election to the House of Representatives in 2010. During these tough times, my experience and seniority in the House will help ensure the needs and values of First District residents are best served. With their support, it is my hope I will be able to continue to serve the First Congressional District of Kentucky in the House of Representatives.”

Sheriff Department audit released

The State Auditor's office has released the special audit it performed of the Todd County Sheriff's Office at the request of the Todd County Fiscal Court and Sheriff W.D. "Billy" Stokes.

A full rundown of the audit will be in next week's Todd County Standard.

Here is the press release from the auditor:

News from State Auditor Crit Luallen’s Office
Luallen releases ’08 audit of Todd County Sheriff’s Office

(Frankfort, Ky. June 4, 2009) State Auditor Crit Luallen today released the 2008 audit of Todd County Sheriff W. D. Stokes, which found a deficit of $16,051 due to the sheriff using more funds to operate his office than it earned during the calendar year.

During 2008, the sheriff’s office had total revenues of $230,063 and allowable expenditures of $246,114 – with the difference being $16,051. The allowable expenditures included the amounts paid for the sheriff’s maximum annual salary and training incentive benefit.

According to the audit, although the sheriff’s budget contained a revenue line item for Todd County Fiscal Court contributions of $26,152, this contribution, when requested, was only made in the amount of $3,158.

The audit recommends the sheriff only expend available revenues.

Stokes responds in the audit: “Had the Todd County Fiscal Court met its obligation to the sheriff’s office by paying the part it was budgeted to pay, the sheriff’s office would have had $6,943 in excess fees for the year 2008.”

State law requires the Auditor to annually audit the accounts of each county sheriff. The audit found that the Todd County Sheriff’s financial statement presents fairly the revenues, expenditures, and excess fees of the Todd County Sheriff in conformity with the regulatory basis of accounting.

As part of the audit process, the Auditor must comment on non-compliance with laws, regulations, contracts and grants. The Auditor must also comment on material weaknesses involving the internal control over financial operations and reporting.

The 2007 Todd County Sheriff’s budget was audited by reviewing the total revenues and expenditures because of the way fiscal court approved the 2007 budget.

For 2008, fiscal court approved a line-item budget for the sheriff’s office, causing auditors to determine the sheriff’s compliance for each category of revenues and expenditures.

This audit review led auditors to report the following findings:

The sheriff’s office should request budget amendments from fiscal court.
Kentucky law (KRS 64.530) states the fiscal court may fix the maximum amount that the sheriff may expend each year for the expenses of his office.

According to the interpretation of this statute in Funk v. Milliken, Ky., 317 S.W.2d499, 507 (1958), “The fiscal court may fix, in advance, the categories of reasonable official expense that will be allowed and the maximum amount that will be allowed in each category.”

In addition, Kentucky law (KRS 68.210) provides the Kentucky State Local Finance Officer (SLFO) with the authority to implement accounting practices for local government officers. In the County Budget Preparation and State Local Finance Officer Policy Manual issued by the Kentucky Department for Local Government, the SLFO requires the fiscal court to approve the calendar year budget for the sheriff’s office by January 15 of each year.”

On Feb. 22, 2008, the Todd County Fiscal Court voted “to approve the second reading of the sheriff’s line by line CY2008 budget” and “to approve on order 7-64 the sheriff’s maximum expenditure as noted in the CY2008 budget.”

Order 7-64 sets the maximum amount allowed per category for expenses of the sheriff’s office for calendar year 2008. This order does not include payroll items. The maximum amount for payroll items was set with Order 7-63.

During the audit, auditors noted six revenue categories and 16 expenditure categories exceeded budgeted amounts for calendar year 2008. The sheriff's office did not request budget amendments from the Todd County Fiscal Court as categories exceeded budgeted amounts or new categories were created.

The sheriff’s office should establish procedures to monitor budgeted to actual and to request budget amendments when categories exceed budgeted amounts or new categories are created.

Stokes responds in the audit, “As the fiscal court line item budget for 2008 passed, they also included a $30,000 personal state advancement loan by the sheriff, which they had been instructed by the sheriff in September 2007, that the sheriff would no longer borrow, due to him/his estate being personally responsible for the loan, by bond.

“The sheriff has continually agreed to pay interest on a loan made by the County, rather than subject him/his family to have to pay back the local government, should he die or be killed while serving as sheriff. With the fiscal court putting this advancement/loan in the budget, knowing that the sheriff wasn’t going to borrow monies he was personally responsible for, to run a government office, the sheriff notified the Kentucky Department of Local Government, which instructed the sheriff to complete his quarterly reports to the Department of Local Government and to the fiscal court without listing anything in the budget estimate columns. Thus, the sheriff followed the advise of the Kentucky Department of Local Government.”

The sheriff’s office should report wages and pay withholdings and matching timely. The sheriff’s office should report wages and pay the withholdings and matching amounts timely to the County Employees Retirement System (CERS), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Kentucky Department of Revenue (KDR), Todd County Occupational Tax Administrator, City of Elkton, Todd County Payroll Clerk, and Kentucky Public Employees' Deferred Compensation Authority.

The Auditor’s Office has referred the audit to the CERS, the IRS and the KDR for further review.

The sheriff’s office should report wages even when funds are not available to make the payments. During calendar year 2008, withholdings and matching were not paid timely due to cash flow problems. The cash flow problems were caused by the sheriff’s decision not to participate in the state advancement program through the Kentucky Finance and Administration Cabinet and the Todd County Fiscal Court’s decision to only provide $3,158 of the $26,152 budgeted for the sheriff’s office by the fiscal court for financial support in the 2008 fee account budget.

Stokes responds in the audit, “At one of the first fiscal court meetings in 2008, the fiscal court passed a motion to stop doing the payroll for the sheriff’s office. This placed an unprepared burden upon the office, already being understaffed. The office got help for the first few months from an accounting firm, which did not prepare any withholdings. The sheriff then obtained a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), who has since corrected the problems for all payroll deductions, and withholdings to be made in a timely manner. There should not be any other problems with these matters, as the CPA is making the payments for the sheriff’s office currently.”

The sheriff’s salary should be paid monthly in accordance with the maximum salary authorization set by the Kentucky Department for Local Government.

Kentucky law (KRS 64.5275) states the sheriff shall receive an annual salary pursuant to the salary schedule set by the Kentucky Department for Local Government (DLG).

The maximum salary set for the Todd County Sheriff in calendar year 2008 was $70,496. Kentucky law (KRS 64.535) states that 1/12 of this salary shall be received monthly.

Payroll records indicate the sheriff did not receive 1/12 of his salary monthly during calendar year 2008. He did not receive a paycheck during the months of January, February, June, July, August, September, and October.

Instead, the sheriff received paychecks for these months during November and December. Additionally, payroll records indicate the sheriff received $71,199, which is $703 over the required salary amount.

The sheriff was overpaid due to mistakes made in withholding city occupational license fees, dental insurance, and deferred compensation from his gross salary. The sheriff repaid the $703 to his official fee account on April 22, 2009.

In the future, the sheriff should ensure that the proper withholdings are made from his gross salary and that he receives 1/12 of his required salary monthly.

Stokes responds in the audit, “The sheriff asked the fiscal court to pay his monthly salary, as there was not enough funds available in the Office to pay them, but the fiscal court refused to pay the sheriff because he wouldn’t borrow money to run the office. No other county elected official has to borrow money to pay his/her salary.”

For these and other audit findings, please view the audit in its entirety at