O Budget, Where Art Thou?
In his proposed budget Gov. Matt Bevin delegated the job of administering his recommended cuts to cabinet and agency leaders, but some lawmakers are becoming frustrated with the information provided by those in charge.
Wednesday, those tensions boiled over in a House committee update on the Health and Family Services Cabinet budget. Despite being dealt reductions in some areas totaling 4.5 percent this fiscal year and back-to-back 9 percent reductions the next two years, Sec. Vickie Yates Brown Glisson promised she was "dedicated to doing everything I can to try to make sure that we don't have cuts to programs, services, or layoffs in the cabinet."
The pledge rang hollow to Rep. Jim Wayne, who lamented the lack of specifics about the effects of Bevin's cutbacks and wondered aloud whether he could trust Glisson's testimony.
"The budget chair tells us 'I don't know where the cuts are going to be, but you can ask the secretaries.' We ask the secretary and she says, 'I don't know where the cuts are going to be. I'm gathering information and I'll have it in two weeks' and now three weeks later we still don't know where the cuts are," the Louisville Democrat said.
Glisson countered that the financial and administrative mess she inherited at the massive cabinet will take time to sort out and a more finely-grained picture will emerge as more data is collected.
It's a tug-of-war that's become familiar in recent weeks, though Wednesday's exchange may have been the first to prompt a walkout. Rep. Addia Wuchner exited the meeting, later issuing a statement blasting what she called "personal attacks" on the governor and the administration.
"It's a shame when we have our citizens and cabinet secretaries taking time to attend these important meetings only to be stymied by personal accusations that hold no bearing on the needs facing our citizens," the Boone County Republican wrote.
Wednesday also saw the head of Kentucky's Energy and Environment Cabinet deliver a general report on the outlook for his agency. Sec. Charles Snavely said high attrition rates make layoffs unlikely for now, but that's as far as he cared to speculate.
"In the short-term, that's generally how we meet our budget. In the longer term, that being the next two years... I can't say because we're undertaking a review of everything we do," he told reporters.
While Snavely's testimony to the House budget subcommittee did not name programs potentially on the chopping block, the secretary did outline a reduction in the number of mine safety inspections - a move he said would do away with duplication by federal inspectors while allowing the cabinet to restart a unique inspection program eliminated by previous budget cuts.
A $1 million dollar research grant administered by the cabinet to the University of Kentucky's Center for Applied Energy Research would also be phased out by 2017.
Copyright 2016 WUKY