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After 2012 failures, Frankfort fingers pointing at each other

by Joe Arnold


Posted on April 26, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Updated Thursday, Apr 26 at 5:22 PM

(WHAS11) -- They have perfected at least one thing at the Kentucky State Capitol -- the art of finger pointing. 

Nearly one week after the end of a $300,000 special session triggered by a tussle over control of the state's road funds, elected leaders show no signs of changing their approach next year.

"Let's hope it’s the last time that we have folks act like that," Governor Steve Beshear told WHAS11.  "Let's hope it's the last time that we don't sit down and get something done, together."

The relationship between Beshear and Senate President David Williams, bruised by Beshear's landslide victory over Williams in the 2011 gubernatorial election, worsened during the regular session.

Raw emotions of legislative redistricting escalated with a bitterly personal battle over the governor's push for casino gambling.  The regular session ended with the Beshear blaming his nemesis by name within the official call for a special session.

"Senator Williams is so wrapped up in winning what he sees as a political game here in Frankfort that he is willing to turn his back on the needs of our people," Beshear said.

"I say the governor needs to quit being so vitriolic in his statements and so vindictive in his actions," Williams said.  "And I hope he will."

Associates close to Beshear said they have never seen the governor more angry than at the end of the regular session. 
Asked if he has any regrets for acting out of anger when he called the special session, Beshear dismissed the premise of the question.

"I didn't act out of anger that day," Beshear said. "I called a spade, a spade."

"The blame landed where it was supposed to land," Beshear continued.  "You know, you have to take public responsibility for your actions.  I do.  Everybody else needs to, too."

"That's just an attempt to mislead the people and spread hate," Williams countered.  "and have people extract vengeance against me."

"There's one person that caused us to be in special session and his name is Steve Beshear.

Beshear was asked if he shares any of the blame for how the session derailed.

"You know, we worked as hard as we could to get everything done on time," he said.

The finger-pointing is not just between Beshear and Williams, but Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo. 

"It's pretty obvious," Stumbo said.  "(Since 2000), you've had three different governors, two different speakers and one constant president of the senate.  And until that changes I don't know.  We may have to constitutionally change things to move this process along."

"The Republicans are going to be in the majority for the next two years starting next January," Williams said.  "And (Beshear is) going to have to deal with a Republican majority in the state senate and he needs to be more bipartisan in his approach."

"What the House is doing is pushing us toward the end to try to gain advantage," Williams said, "and the governor was a collaborator with (Stumbo) on that."

The legislative leaders accuse each other of breaking promises in the critical negotiations to reach a deal on the road plan and transportation budget.

"Every time it's because the House holds the budget, gives us 3 or 4 days to do it, then is incalcitrant, won't reach an accord or agreement or won't live up to the agreements that they have made," Williams told WHAS11.  "That won't happen two years from now."

"They passed the budget and agreed to override the governor's vetoes and then they didn't do it," Williams said.  "They passed the road plan and agreed that the governor could not line item in the road plan, or they would uphold it.  They won't do it."

"That's not true," Stumbo said.  "We never had an agreement on any of the overrides.  As a matter of fact, I don't think Sen. Williams will tell you when that conversation occurred in details because it didn't occur."

Stumbo said he can't speak for all House members regarding whether to override any vetoes. 

The Prestonsburg Democrat alleged that Williams agreed to pass House Bill 260 as part of the negotiations over the budget, but failed to deliver.

"Which is the first time in my 30 plus years in the legislature that legislators have given me that type of assurance from a leadership position and not done it," Stumbo said.

"So that's going to be pretty damaging to the relationship because when you promise something and you promise it in front of the whole world and you don't do it and there's no real reason why you didn't do it, then one has to wonder what the true integrity of that person is," Stumbo continued.

"Obviously, it's suffered greatly during this session."

The Speaker offered little optimism for legislative relations in the next session.

"It's probably going to be worse than it has been I think until the senate changes its attitude, changes its leadership over there," Stumbo said.  "It's going to be the same old thing over and over again."

"Every time they take one of these punitive actions, it makes it more difficult to deal with each other in the next budget cycle," Williams said.

In criticizing Williams' refusal to pass a transportation budget without the governor's signature on the road plan, Stumbo suggested that Beshear's line item vetoes of projects related to William's Senate district were politically motivated.

"I would think because the transportation plan was actually balanced within the over-programming parameters that had Senator Williams gone ahead and passed that bill in the last day of the regular session like he should have, the governor probably wouldn't have vetoed his projects," Stumbo said.

Beshear maintains there is hope for future legislative sessions.

"I have a great deal of hope," Beshear said.

"Look what we did with this prescription drug bill.  Here was a deal that on Friday morning was dead.  And I got Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the House, they wouldn't take no for an answer. I wouldn't take no for an answer."

"I'm hoping that this is a good omen for the future," Beshear said.  "I'm willing to work with anybody. I don't care who they are, I don't care what party they're in.  As long as they are willing to sit down with me and let's try to find the common ground necessary to move the state ahead."