- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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Sept. 15

The Lexington Herald-Leader on recent Facebook videos by Gov. Matt Bevin about taxes and public employee pensions:

It is not at all clear that Gov. Matt Bevin has a sense of irony; but if he does, he certainly put it to work in one of his recent Facebook videos.



Taking on again one of his favorite targets, the media (blame the messenger) Bevin launched into a diatribe against “trying to create panic and dissension.”

Whoa, governor, look in the mirror.

Dissension? You are the person who has demonized teachers and other public employees, suggesting they are gaming the retirement system by storing up sick days, are unfaithful to their work because they might consider retiring early to preserve benefits, or simply greedy. You’ve characterized those who came before you in the pension story as everything from incompetent to irresponsible to criminal.

Panic? You have held your thumb down on the “crisis” button on public pensions, including those that are relatively well funded, and now you’ve added a state budget firestorm to the mix.

Despite a refreshing commitment when you came into office almost two years ago to face down the problems in Kentucky’s public pensions and solve them using fiscal discipline and more money, you’ve yet to do much more than talk. You hired a private pension consultant whose bill is now topping $1 million, but your administration has yet to put forth any solid proposals much less legislation for the General Assembly to consider.

The reality you once acknowledged is that the largest public pension program has sunk to a dangerously low funding level in large part because for years governors and General Assemblies (which included many members who are now in leadership) failed to make the state’s contributions to match those deducted every two weeks from employees’ paychecks. Compounding that failure, they also approved cost of living increases for retirees that they equally failed to fund.

As recently as April you said “we truly have to create more revenue.”

In fairness, you did say that the best way to raise revenue is through a robust, growing economy. Agreed, but even that’s a lame promise when Kentucky continues to chip away at revenue from growth by giving huge tax breaks to businesses that locate here.

This, too, you once recognized. As recently as your State of the Commonwealth address in February you said there can’t be any sacred cows when the legislature looks at closing over 300 loopholes and tax breaks.

Now, governor, on the basis of numbers from your consultants, you’re claiming that underfunding is only a small part of the problem.

That political sleight-of-hand is nothing but cover to avoid the political challenges of eliminating tax exemptions or raising some taxes, or both, to raise money to meet pension and other obligations.

It’s hard to tell what, if any, agenda you really have.

Once you acknowledged that pension obligations could only be met by creating more revenue, which involved real tax reform. Now your tax reform seems to be about cutting taxes and your pension reform is cutting pensions.

Governor, listen to your own advice. Quit spreading panic, attacking and dividing. Start leading.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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Sept. 15

The Daily News of Bowling Green on Gov. Matt Bevin challenging universities to consider eliminating courses that don’t lead to graduates filling high-wage, high-demand jobs:

In today’s world, there are some college classes that are obsolete and do little to prepare students for the workforce.

It’s a shame this is the case, but it is reality. The list of classes that are obsolete and don’t prepare young people for high-paying jobs is long. Not only are these classes obsolete, they are also a waste of money. Some professors and students might disagree with our assessment, and that’s OK, as everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Gov. Matt Bevin is one of those who is of the same thinking as we are that some academic programs on college campuses have outlived their necessity in times of tight state budgets.

Bevin has challenged university boards and presidents to consider eliminating some courses that don’t lead to graduates filling high-wage, high-demand jobs. One example Bevin used was eliminating interpretive dance classes, saying, “If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you, but there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that skill set.”

Bevin is correct. There are far too many classes such as this on our college campuses that don’t prepare people for high-paying jobs. There are also millions of dollars spent each year on things that colleges and universities could easily do without.

It’s quite clear that something has to change, especially when our state is trying to fix its failing public pension systems and economists estimate our state faces a $200 million shortfall when the fiscal year ends in mid-2018. Bevin further argued for boards and presidents to find entire parts of a campus that don’t need to be there - including some programs and degrees that are offered, as well as buildings that shouldn’t be there because they are being maintained as an asset that’s not of any value. Bevin also said a college degree isn’t sufficient if students aren’t studying the right things.

These are all good points that Bevin makes. We know it is going to be hard for university boards and presidents of colleges across this state to become leaner in light of the belt-tightening all of them have had to do over recent years. Still, it is not unreasonable to ask them to evaluate courses of marginal value while our state addresses its budget shortfall and pension problems.

Online: https://www.bgdailynews.com/

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Sept. 19

The Lexington Herald-Leader on the amendment proposed by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul to the National Defense Authorization Act:

Kentuckians can be proud that Sen. Rand Paul continues to lead the lonely fight to get the U.S. Senate to revisit the 16-year-old war powers authorization - approved in the aftermath of 9/11 - that has been used by three presidents to wage war in seven countries, expending thousands of lives and trillions of dollars.

Paul’s proposal, offered as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, would have repealed the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) passed in 2001, along with another passed in 2002, that have served as the legal basis for the ongoing military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as military operations elsewhere aimed at combating ISIS and other terrorist organizations.

If it had passed, there would have been a six-month delay to give Congress time to investigate and debate the issue and pass a new authorization, if it chose.

Paul had to work hard to even get a vote on the measure, which was tabled on a 61 to 36 vote. One of his supporters was Tim Kaine, the Democratic senator from Virginia who was Hillary Clinton’s running mate last year. “Of all the powers Congress has, the one that we should most jealously guard is the power to declare war,” Kaine said.

Although Paul opposes almost all foreign military entanglements, his fundamental argument is that Congress has the constitutional authority and obligation to vote on whether the U.S. will wage war, but for over a decade and a half has ceded that power to the president.

A reminder about why Congress must reassert its power over the executive’s ability to act alone and launch into deadly and costly conflicts was delivered in New York.

Before the United Nations, President Donald Trump boasted about building up the United States’ military power and threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea.

If the AUMFs were repealed, Congress would be compelled to hold hearings on and debate a new authorization for use of military force. It would have to assert its authority and responsibility by taking a stand.

Imagine that.

Online: https://www.kentucky.com/

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