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9/24/2004

GOP Implosion in Kentucky

GOP Gov. Ernie Fletcher's approval rating is down to 29%. 29%!

A statewide WHAS11 News Poll shows Fletcher’s job approval rating at 29 percent, lower than former governor Paul Patton fared in a Courier-Journal poll following the disclosure of his affair.
Survey here. His brief tenure as Governor has already built a shocking record of incompetence, dishonesty, and sordid backdoor dealing - Kentucky is operating without a state budget - but what has really knocked Fletcher over the edge is his recent, drastic, reduction in benefits for Kentucky teachers and state employees.

In early September, Fletcher unveiled a new health insurance contract for Kentucky's 171,000 state employees. The worst version of the new coverage is estimated to cost an average government employee $952 more per year, school employees $890, and retirees $1,132. The higher price buys less choice, due to a new regional single insurer scheme.

The plan was met with a firestorm of criticism. Kentucky teachers plan a one day work stoppage on Sept. 27, and an open ended strike on Oct. 27. Kentucky voters are are following these developments closely, as teachers are protesting across the state, and schools are debating changing their schedules to give teachers a chance to get their voices heard (it looks like only Northern KY - mostly KY4 - will close for the day, but public protests are being held everywhere). Even Fletcher supporters are fleeing like rats from his sinking ship.
One woman asked [Republican Sen. Damon] Thayer why the Fletcher administration spent more than $2,000 on a mattress as part of sprucing up the governor's mansion in Frankfort.

"You know what? You should go to his house and ask him," Thayer said. [Herald Leader]
So Gov. Fletcher called for a special session to give the legislature a chance to fix his egregious mess. Democrats in the House and Senate responded with a good faith call for a bipartisan effort to take care of Kentucky's teachers. Fletcher's aides responded by calling the special session purely symbolic, arguing that Fletcher had tied the government's hands and the legislature wouldn't be able to do anything. Why call a special session at all then? The costly session is a crass partisan effort to teach the House Democrats a lesson with taxpayer dollars. Even GOP Sen. President David Williams (Dick Cheney:George W. Bush::David Williams:Ernie Fletcher) was upset by the maneuver.

Paul Patton's sexual peccadilloes submarined the KY Democrats in 2003; it looks like Fletcher's abominable incompetence will hurt the KY GOP in 2004.

More at the KEA homepage.

Choice Quotes:
Fletcher told an audience of about 500 people at the Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park that he inherited a flawed insurance structure that would have plunged the state deep in debt had it remained in place. [AP]
On Sept. 7, the Kentucky Education Association stated that our administration "inherited" the unsustainable mess relating to the health insurance plan for teachers and public employees. KEA is right--the health insurance problems of Kentucky did not arise overnight and will not be solved immediately. They stem not only from the cost of new technology, but also from years of neglect, medical lawsuit abuse, overregulation and the lack of health, disease and pharmaceutical drug management. [Ernie Fletcher]
"I can totally relate to what you're saying, you say you inherited this problem, you've been in office nine months," said Veda Stewart, a library media specialist at Ashland Elementary. "We come into teaching and we inherit the problems of the world. These kids come to us lacking so many things and we're supposed to fill them up. ... 'No more excuses. Just get the job done,' that's what we're being told. And we're looking to you to get the job done." [Herald Leader]
"I feel like right now you're blowing smoke at us," said Ron Moore, a teacher and coach at Jessie Clark Middle School. "And please be aware that there's a smoking ban here in Fayette County." [Herald Leader]
Days later, a state worker rally at the Capitol ended on a political note after Democratic state Sen. Daniel Mongiardo of Hazard showed up. Mongiardo, challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, turned the event into a makeshift campaign rally after moderators called on him to address the crowd. [Herald Leader 2]
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's attempt to cloud the problems his administration has created for teachers and public employees regarding their health insurance is nothing new. Yet the basic issue is not hard to understand.

If the commonwealth is to attract and retain qualified, hard-working educators and public employees, whether they work for the general government or a school system, we need to provide competitive salaries and benefits. One of the biggest factors is health insurance. [Rep. Jody Richards]


PS. Some may want to look into Mr. Birdwhistell, whose ties to one of the contracting insurance providera are a bit unseemly.

 

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