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Taming the Wild Budget Beast

Mark Twain once said "Those that respect the law and love sausage should watch neither being made."

Once again in Frankfort we are down to the final hours of the Kentucky 2008 General Assembly. The House and Senate have had one major responsibility for coming to the state capital and that has always been passing a two year budget.

Yet in our modern society, nothing is simple anymore. The act of passing laws is not for faint of heart citizens. Watching from the galleries of either chamber will only provide a small insight into the process of how government works. Legislators move at a speed and a pace dictated by public perception, power shifting alliances, big money interests, and back home public support.

It is a fine line that separates success or failure in carving up a complex modern state budget without firing most of the help (state workers). At several times, in recent years, the budget was not passed in the regular legislative session. We needed special sessions to deal with how to divide up the money. This year the odds are that a budget will be patched together at the last moment on Sunday afternoon. Fighting against the clock are issues that will demand attention be paid to them, if not in 2008, then in 2009.

Issues such as: (1) higher education costs and the entire question on how to govern the universities spending for buildings, administration, research; (2) specter of overcrowding local jails forcing some counties into fiscal crisis not seen since the dark days of the Great Depression (1930's); (3) desperate need for more local government water and sewer infrastructure systems to be built across Kentucky; (4) reform of local and state utility taxes that are crushing many middle class and working poor Kentuckians; (5) mounting conflict over who owns the water sheds of Kentucky (big corporations-local governments-conservation groups) (6) impact of climate crises (extreme storms and droughts) to bottom line of state and local governments (7) revamping of the aged State Park System to meet the tourism needs of the 21st Century as well as a new Kentucky Strategic Tourism Plan; (8) dealing with some 6,000 to 8,000 state workers retiring and the need for a massive reorganization of the form and structure of state government in order to modernize state and local government for the needs of a new century; ((9) structuring the state debt process to make sure it is not caught up in the emerging Wall Street financial crisis; (10) designing a totally new economic vision and government structure for moving Kentucky into the future with jobs that can be developed statewide and not just in central Kentucky. (11) crafting new sources for increased revenue into the state; and (12) making a final decision on statewide gaming.

Taken all together, these are the bones of the Budget Beast that the legislators will have to wrestle with over the next few days.

Better them than us.

Like Mark Twain said,the process is not a pretty picture.

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