Adam Edelen left government job on September 15th. He'll be running for ?? in 2011
Adam Edelen visited Ballard County on September 14th to attend the Ballard County Chamber breakfast meeting. It wasn’t Adam’s first visit to Ballard County as he is an avid hunter and has found Ballard County to be a favorite spot during winter duck and goose seasons.
It was after the meeting that Adam stopped by my offices for a moment to say hello and a brief goodbye as well. Adam announced that September 15th would be his last day as the Governor’s Chief of Staff. So before allowing the “right hand man” of Kentucky’s Chief of Staff take his leave, I asked a few questions from the “man in the know’s” perspective.
BW: At this morning’s Chamber Breakfast, you stated that Governor Beshear had faced eight budget cuts while being in office only two and a half years. How do you decide where to start?
AE: Most governors deal with a budget twice in their term
This governor has had to deal with it eight times in almost three years. Knowing that we are not going to raise taxes in small business and working class people because that is the cleanest way to kill economic recovery, we have done an analysis of what is the most important functions of government: education especially K-12, a social safety net particularly for people in need, health care, Medicaid, for people who can’t afford it and public safety. So that is the areas that the governor has worked the hardest to minimize the cuts to. I think the big accomplishment is that throughout these ht budget cuts is that there have not been cuts in the lifeblood of classroom instruction, the funding of classroom instruction at elementary level.
BW: There has been a lot of issue with some state employees, most publicly, the corrections department and some other areas that several had filed suit against the governor and state government on the mandated furloughs. Explain how the furlough system came about and why that system was necessary – furloughs as opposed to layoffs
AE: The challenge the Governor was confronted with was trying to make payroll and given the situation that the state senate’s total reluctance to do things that would give new revenue. So if you take new revenue off the table and give us what you’ve got it puts us in a difficult spot. So then we are in the position of whether we would furlough state employees, with some of those days being around built-in holidays, the first being around Labor Day weekend and there will be another at Christmas and Thanksgiving, or were we going to have mass layoffs, perhaps a thousand people. We spoke to state employees and it was assessed and everyone was willing to sacrifice a little to keep form putting a whole lot of people out on the street. Where, one I think it was a compliment to the governor’s leadership and two, I think it was a compliment to the kind of people we have working in state government. They were willing to take a 2% hit, or whatever that works out to be in their salary so somebody else could keep their job and benefits. But it is important to recognize that not all state employees are able to handle the furlough equally. You know, someone who is, let me point out, the governor took his furlough day and I am his chief of staff, I took my furlough day, but there is a difference form somebody who works behind a desk and somebody who is charged with making sure prisoners stay in their cells and that is why we limited furloughs and there were certain classes of people who were exempted. And after having some communications with some state employees the governor decided that some corrections people, particularly those that were front line people needed to be exempted from the furlough package. It is very difficult to put in a one size fits all package to prevent layoffs. Now, there have been some layoffs in the Beshear administration. This is the first governor, I think in the history of the state, who has laid off some of his own political appointees. There are two classifications – there are merit employees and there are political appointees, like me, who serve at the pleasure of the governor. The governor has significantly reduced the number of political appointees in Frankfort.
BW: A big issue in the four river counties is jobs, the loss of jobs and lack of potential job growth. Carlisle County made an announcement two weeks ago of a possible coal gasification plant coming in there. I have heard rumors that there are possible incentives on that plant.
AE: The KEDFA has approved potentially half a billion dollars in incentives which is performance based incentives provided that operation gets up and running all right. That is something that we are working on in Frankfort for this area every day of ever week. The issues that we have are the capitals market, the people that would provide financing or capital for that market for that facility is just not letting go of the money. That is the particular issue we have on that particular facility on that project.
Recognizing the importance that coal plays on our future here in Kentucky, this is the kind of project we are excited about. But what we all have to know, especially those e of us in our approach to economic development is very important but it is not the whole shooting match. We have to have the incentive structure in Kentucky to expand their operations, because, Anita, ultimately, what is going to get us out of this economic crisis is the small economic businesses who go from 10 employees to 20 or from 30 to 50 and for the first time ever, this makes us a national leader, is that we have incentives in the economic development cabinet that are aimed to helping local businesses do just that. Local businesses that employ just a handful of people that is owned locally by people that go to church here, or are active in the PTA are not the type of companies that are going to pick up and go to China. We have to recognize and look into the sky and say this approach to economic development is not what is going to deliver for our people. What we have are Kentuckians that are resilient enough and are entrepreneur enough to get us through and that is what you have with Gov. Beshear.
BW: Our river industry in Wickliffe is beginning to grow. We are limited on our space down there but we would like to see industry grow more. Do you foresee any growth going up toward the Ohio or along the Mississippi in the river counties?
AE: What you a have is a natural asset in the river counties, Ballard specifically and the river counties more generally. You have outstanding river frontage, you have excellent rail frontage through here. That infrastructure is in place. You have a workforce that is amongst the hardest working in the whole world. It is just about marketing. It is making these sources of opportunity more available. We have a lot of good things going on and this region is prime to move economically. We just need is an improving economy. I think when the industrial and marketing base begins to expand which I think inevitably they do with an improving economy, this is the type location they want to target when they begin to move.
BW: I-69 is in the works, do you think that will help us economically as far as industry or do you think that will hurt our small towns?
AE: I think as long as we do road construction the right way that should enhance small towns. What we have to avoid is making sure that, the roads that we put in place should be something to bring us economic opportunity; they shouldn’t be a pathway to lead to the exodus of our young people. You have to get the infrastructure in place – good roads, good sewer lines, educated workforce – these are the preconditions for economic growth. You want to have these in place. We don’t want our young people going elsewhere to follow their dreams. We have to have these things in place so our young people to realize their dreams here. Particularly with I-69, this is a project that the Transportation Cabinet is working on every day whether it is the planning that has to be done, the marketing, the branding that has to be done. This is something that has to be done everyday. It is a federal project. You have to wait on the federal project to do the main part of the funding but that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. We are working with the other states and I am optimistic that it is going to happen. But if you want to talk about a project that will transform our state, I-69 holds the keys.
This was the last official interview with Adam Edelen before his return to Frankfort to clean out his desk and return to private life. However, there is speculation that his name will appear on a state-wide ballot in 2011. In the meantime, he will continue to work closely with Governor Beshear in Frankfort.