Monday, December 07, 2009

Beshear sacrificing state employees on altar of casino gambling

Even before he took office as governor, Steve Beshear started poor-mouthing the state's budgetary outlook in order to promote the establishment of casino gambling in Kentucky. So far he's been unsuccessful, but now it appears that he plans on sacrificing some state employees in an attempt to pay off the gambling interests that bankrolled his 2007 campaign.

In his latest dire prediction in a series of dire predictions, Beshear claims that the next round of budget cuts made necessary by a poor economy will likely include furloughs or layoffs of state employees.

In other words, if we don't pass casino gambling soon, state employees will start losing their jobs.

That's a fine way to treat some of your most loyal supporters. State workers are a reliable constituency for Democrats, in large part due to decades of patronage hiring. (Democrats account for around 75 percent of all state merit system workers). Fueled in large part by lies told about the Fletcher administration's treatment of state workers -- contrary to rumor, not one non-probationary merit employee was fired for political reasons during the Fletcher years -- state workers voted in droves for Beshear.

But unfortunately for them, state employees are a forgotten constituency with Democrats. Once they are used for their bloc of votes, they are summarily discarded until the next election comes along. State law requires merit system workers to receive a 5 percent raise every year, but that law is rarely obeyed by the legislature and governor when they craft the state budget. Yet state workers will again flock to the polls to vote for a Democrat in every governor's race.

Now Beshear threatens this constituency with layoffs if he can't appease the casino moguls. He's basically bought a couple of state Senate seats with taxpayer dollars in an attempt to make that chamber more receptive to passing a gambling measure; now he's going to use the salaries of state workers as a bribe.

Any state worker who would consider voting for Beshear for re-election is insane. You've seen how little he values you; you're just a pawn in his high-stakes games with the casino bosses. And while it's true that state government is overstaffed well in excess of the 33,000-employee statutory limit, the folks currently working for the state didn't ask to be tossed away so Beshear can pay back his moneyed supporters.

We've never believed Beshear's poor-mouthing, especially since he started it even before taking office when the Fletcher administration had left the state in excellent financial condition. We always believed it to be a front for his support for casino gambling, and we continue to believe it.

If the state really is in dire financial straits and in need of budget cuts, we can identify several places where expenditures can be trimmed without requiring layoffs of state merit workers, many of whom do hard work for low salaries even if they are patronage hirelings. We'll be posting some of our ideas in the next few days and weeks and we invite readers to do the same.

In the meantime, Steve Beshear should be ashamed of himself. These are real people's real lives he's considering messing with to pay off his campaign contributors. You can bet -- pun intended -- that Ernie Fletcher would never have done such a thing.

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