- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:

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March 31

Lexington (Kentucky) Herald-Leader on raiding the public employees health insurance fund:

You may recall that our praise last week for the General Assembly’s accomplishments came with a caveat that it was too soon to know all that went down in the session’s final hours.

Turns out lawmakers waited until after midnight to raid the balance of the public employees health insurance fund for $63.5 million, as The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus discovered and reported a few days after the gavel fell on the 2015 session.

Coming at the last minute, the action gave state workers and school district employees, who pay premiums into the fund, no chance to protest.

Such raids have become common. Lawmakers and governors have been avoiding tax reform for years by tapping into various state funds to balance the budget.

State budgets routinely divert money from funds created for specific purposes and collected from sources such as professional and occupational licensing fees, or sales of license plates which are supposed to support nature preserves but instead make up for shortfalls in the General Fund.

The practice has been upheld by the state Supreme Court, which, incidentally depends on the legislature to fund it and the rest of the state’s judicial system.

The $63.5 million raided from the public employees insurance fund will provide $10 million to cover a shortfall in public school funding, $10 million to fund the new heroin bill and $7.8 million to help cover losses in road programs due to declines in gas tax revenue.

The rest will plump up the state’s rainy-day fund which has been running low.

Lawmakers also dipped $3 million from one of their favorite wells - the fund that is supposed to clean up leaking underground storage tanks and that gets its money from a 1.4 cent tax on each gallon of gasoline.

Brent McKim, president of the Jefferson County Teachers Association, told Loftus that “a significant fraction” of the insurance fund “represents what we pay in. So, in essence, this transfer is a selective tax on public employees.” The money could have been used to lower costs or improve benefits for the public employees who pay into the fund.

The $63 million raided from the employees insurance fund will go to good causes. But you have to figure lawmakers know this is no way to run a state or they wouldn’t have waited until the dead of their last night to do it.

Online:

https://www.kentucky.com/

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March 31

The News-Enterprise, Elizabethtown, Kentucky, on the ExCEL awards:

One started her path to being a teacher at a young age, always looking at it as a career.

Another began his post-secondary education with a major in journalism and shifted his focus to becoming a teacher and impacting young lives.

And another has spent 42 years in the classroom at four different educational stops and has no plans to venture off into retirement.

Cindy Proffitt, Caleb Ernst and Lauren Heil are this year’s WHAS-TV ExCEL Award winners, the best of the very best in the teaching profession in our area. The award annually is presented by LG&E; KU.

All have a unique talent of keeping students invested in their teaching and in learning.

The winners and other district nominees went through a lengthy process that includes being nominated, an interview and classroom observation before being selected.

The ExCEL Award stands for excellence in classroom and educational leadership.

PROFFITT. The daughter of a school principal, Proffitt is the first teacher from Vine Grove Elementary to win the ExCEL Award in the 25 years it has been handed out in Hardin County Schools.

She is a fifth-grade teacher at the school where she has taught for 24 of her 33 years in the profession.

When she and her six brothers and sisters would play school, she always was the one who was the teacher, she said, so it’s no surprise she became an educator.

Described as someone who puts in long days and nights and “cares about her students,” Proffitt has helped her students improve test scores on the state exam, for example.

She said next year will be her final year teaching.

HEIL. Teaching has been a big part of Lauren Heil’s life. She has done it for 42 years now.

She says, “This is just my persona; this is who I am.”

Heil, who teaches special education at LaRue County High School, is the ExCEL award winner for LaRue County Schools.

She also has taught in May-wood, Illinois; Gages Lake, Illinois; Henderson County and now in LaRue County.

Said Derek Rock, one of her students, “Mrs. Heil is more than just my teacher; she is my friend.”

ERNST. A graduate of LaRue County High School, Caleb Ernst changed his career path and decided to be a teacher, graduating in 2010 from Western Kentucky University with a degree in English and Allied Language Arts.

Today, he is the ExCEL winner for Elizabethtown Independent Schools. He has been teaching at Elizabethtown High School just four years.

Ernst teaches freshmen in English I and English I honors and seniors in English IV honors and is involved in various other aspects of the school, such as the co-sponsor for the Beta Club and Book Club.

Proffitt and Heil already have been recognized by their school districts with the ExCEL award. A celebration for Ernst will be held later this month at Elizabethtown High School.

Online:

https://www.thenewsenterprise.com

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March 31

The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Kentucky, on an unhealthy health plan:

Gubernatorial hopeful James Comer started out on the right track when he decided to address health care this week, citing Kentucky’s decades-long history of poverty, child abuse, death and disease.

Then he went off the rails.

The solution offered by Comer, one of four Republicans vying for the GOP nomination? Strip health care coverage from many of the more than 500,000 Kentuckians who obtained it through the Affordable Care Act.

Some have gained health coverage for the first time in years, others for the first time in their lives under the law also known as Obamacare. Most, because Kentucky is such an impoverished state, qualify for Medicaid, which Comer wants to slash.

Comer wants to abolish the Kentucky version of Obamacare known as kynect, echoing the talking points of Kentucky’s senior Sen. Mitch McConnell as he vowed to seek repeal of the law “root and branch.”

Instead, Comer vaguely promises to create jobs that might come with health coverage.

Meanwhile, he will attack the state’s deadly health problems with prevention and access to health care - failing to explain how he’d do that after he strips away the only means of many Kentuckians to pay for care. That’s what got Kentucky where it is today.

Comer is a smart, articulate guy who’s had a successful run as state agriculture commissioner.

He owes Kentucky a more rational approach to one of the state’s most pressing problems if he hopes to be governor.

Online:

https://www.courier-journal.com

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