Daily WTF: Legislatures Waiting Too Long to Submit Budgets

This week, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin vetoed several lines on Kentucky’s next two-year budget. This budget was the product of weeks of research, negotiation, and drafts and was truly a bipartisan effort with both Democrats and Republicans compromising to create a coherent, sound budget. Unfortunately, Governor Bevin disagreed and vetoed items like allowing Kentucky seniors to go to community college for free (pending certain actions and only for limited credit hours), allowing people living at 200% of the poverty level to qualify for government-assisted healthcare, and changing the way Kentucky does IDs so Kentuckians can actually legally travel on planes. However, as disappointed as I am with Bevin’s vetoes, I’m even more disappointed with my legislature. Thanks to their in-fighting and bickering and waiting until the very last day of the legislature to pass a budget, they cannot override Bevin’s vetoes. Regardless of the harm his vetoes could do or how unpopular they might be, they get to be law since our legislature waited so long to pass a budget. We are stuck with what we have until next year.

For those of you who don’t know, state legislatures basically only meet for a few months of the year. In Kentucky, that’s January through mid-April. In the interim, our legislatures are (at least in theory) still meeting on boards and committees, still drafting bills, still meeting with constituents, still campaigning, and still fundraising. However, they are not passing any laws during this time. If they want to pass laws, they have to call a special legislative session, which is a costly action that no one really wants. Waiting too long to pass something means they can’t override a governor veto, which, depending on what side of the issue you’re on, can be either good or bad.

Currently, Democrats, liberals, and other progressives have less of a voice in Kentucky. We still have a slim Democratic majority in the House, but the Senate and Governor are conservative. This means that our representatives have to fight even harder to pass basic healthcare, fund education, and prevent costly tax loopholes. It also means that they have to plan their bills far in advance and with back-up plans since both the Senate and Governor will be against them.

Personally, I’m disappointed that they didn’t work to pass the budget faster, allowing them the possibility of overriding the veto. Since the budget actually was a bipartisan effort, the legislature probably could have succeeded in doing so for at least a couple of the items. Waiting so long disenfranchises their constituents and means Kentucky’s most vulnerable citizens – its sick, its poor, and its children – will have to suffer for another year.

Right now, Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo is raising questions about the legality of Bevin’s filing of the vetoes, but he is being curiously silent about the actual vetoes, especially given his vocal outrage earlier in the year. He is trying to place the blame onto Bevin and away from him and his Congressional colleagues.

Generally, I support Representative Stumbo. I think he’s a fair, intelligent man with the passion and will to fight for what he believes. I think he has the state’s best interests at heart. However, he should know what kind of man Bevin is now. He should know what Bevin believes and is willing to approve. He cannot claim ignorance of the man’s character, and he cannot rest full blame of this poorly-planned move on him. Blame will not enable families to educate their young children. Blame will not make going to college easier for teenagers. Blame will not help Kentucky thrive. Only hard work and learning from your mistakes will. Here’s hoping he’s learned that for 2017.


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