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Beshear barnstorm begins, Williams wants TV debate on Medicaid

by Joe Arnold


Posted on March 14, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Updated Monday, Mar 14 at 5:25 PM

Unable to reach a deal at the Capitol, Gov. Beshear is taking his case directly to the voters.

The oath of office in Kentucky includes a denial of ever fighting a duel.

Governor Steve Beshear (D) and Senate President David Williams (R-Burkesville) are getting close.

In Lexington Monday, Beshear embarked on a two-day, nine city barnstorming tour via the state plane, blaming Williams for the budget impasse and urging Kentuckians to pressure Senate Republicans to adopt Beshear’s plan to borrow $166 million from next year's Medicaid budget to cover a gap in this year’s Medicaid budget, then paying it back when changes to Medicaid save money.

“I'll do whatever it takes to protect those kids,” Beshear said, “We're going to go around and attempt to motivate the citizens of this state to get involved in this process.”

Williams, a Republican candidate for governor, is challenging Beshear to a debate on KET, statewide television.

“Today, I'm challenging the governor rather than going around and doing these press releases and misrepresentations around to the various districts and flying around on the state plane, to meet me on Kentucky Educational Television face to face,” Williams said in his Capitol Annex office, “so we can put both sides of this budget controversy before the people of the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Beshear says if the General Assembly doesn't approve his plan, he'll have to slash Medicaid reimbursement rates 35%.

Yet, Williams says Beshear hasn't delivered on past savings promises, so the Republicans are insisting on a sure thing, an across the board cut of state government.

Beshear says he won't give in.

“We're going to be cutting a number of our agencies again,” Beshear explained, “So; no we're not going to be cutting folks that we already cut 20 and 30 percent when we don't have to.”

“Nobody wants their budget cut,” Williams countered, “but I tell you what, the people of the Commonwealth of Kentucky want us to balance this budget and they don't want us to forestall this problem and put it off until next year.”

“The governor is not negotiating.  He's flying around the state trying to get people with pitchforks and torches to come to the capitol,” Williams complained.

“We're also calling upon him to reimburse the state for the cost of the travel, security and other things that he's using as he goes around the state,” Williams said, “It's obviously a political ploy.”

A spokeswoman for Beshear said the two days of the Governor traveling the state will cost a total of approximately $8,200.

Beshear bristled at the suggestion that gubernatorial politics are behind his barnstorming tour.

“The government is paying for the governor of this commonwealth to do his duty to go out in this state and inform the citizens of this state on what the state senate is attempting to do to the children of this state and the folks who need health care in this state,” Beshear said, “’You betcha,’ and I don't apologize for it for a minute.”

Beshear is hammering Williams for the cost of the special session. 

“They're going to get paid twice by the taxpayers of this state,” Beshear said, “and (voters) need to know that too.”

Yet, lawmakers were set to be paid this week anyway - before the controversy erupted.

And Williams is taking it one step further -- proposing that lawmakers not be paid at all for the special session and perhaps not in future special sessions..

“In order to get paid, the legislators will have to vote on a pay bill and justify why they should be paid in those sessions," Williams said.