- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Summary of recent Kentucky newspaper editorials:

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March 25

The Paducah Sun on austerity and the cost of the legislature:

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin is a financial guy. He had little political background when voters elected him over a career politician in the 2015 governor’s race.

We suspect that’s why Bevin soon recognized Kentucky’s financial situation for what it is: a disaster. He told Kentuckians the unvarnished truth about it, unlike a long list before him.

At the core of Kentucky’s woes is a long-running fraud in the management of the state’s public employee pension funds. Past governors and lawmakers lied routinely about the adequacy of funding in order to pass budgets appearing not to violate Kentucky’s constitutional prohibition against deficit spending.

But there were indeed deficits. Today they show up as a $41-billion-plus shortfall in the pension funds.

This has forced Bevin to run the state like the head of a bondholder committee that seizes control of an overextended company. He has imposed a painful cost-cutting regimen in an effort to redirect the state’s cash flow to service the pension debt and avoid default.

Career politicians - including increasingly many nominal Republicans in the Legislature - have fought Bevin almost every step of the way. So here’s a thought for the governor: As long as we’re cutting costs, what might we do about our Legislature?

Regular readers know we have not been fans of former Republican Senate President David Williams, whom we have referred to as a RINO (Republican in Name Only). We came to that view in 2000 when Williams went on radio programs in Paducah advocating that the Legislature begin meeting every year rather than every other. A constitutional amendment to authorize that was on the 2000 ballot.

We strongly opposed the proposal editorially. It was sold on the premise that it would make the Legislature more efficient and reduce the number of special sessions. We believed - correctly as it turns out - it would do nothing of the sort.

What it did do is - and this was always the goal - create a class of career legislators, effectively doubling lawmakers’ earnings and bloating their pensions by assembling them annually in Frankfort. Today we see what this bought us.

A good start for Bevin would be to invite Kentuckians to reverse course. Ditch the every-other-year “short sessions” during which legislators routinely do such important work as listening to people dressed up as the tooth fairy expound on dental health.

Were it ours to do we wouldn’t stop there. Why have career legislators at all? Why pay them pensions and salaries large enough to live on?

It is the reason we see paralysis in the current legislative session despite one party enjoying supermajorities in both chambers. This session is not about solving the state’s biggest problems; it’s about everyone keeping their jobs.

This presents a great argument for going back to the days of citizen legislators - people who are paid only their expenses for time spent in Frankfort; who assume the office despite the inconvenience, only for a time, in service of their state.

Perhaps that is too idealistic a concept for this day and age. But we can suggest an idea that is not, and it would be a good start. Bevin should campaign for an end to annual sessions. We are confident it is an idea that at the voter level would enjoy broad bipartisan support.

Online: http://www.paducahsun.com/

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March 25

The Daily News of Bowling Green on Honor Flights for veterans:

The brave young men who fought in World War II are called the “Greatest Generation” for a reason.

It’s because they are.

After the cowardly and unprovoked attacks by the Japanese military at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, thousands upon thousands of brave men who weren’t already in uniform at the time volunteered for military service because they, like the majority of Americans at that time, knew what happened called for a quick retaliation against the Japanese.

These brave men reported for their physicals, took the oath, went through basic training and went on to fight admirably in the Japanese and European theaters for nearly the next four years. Many paid the ultimate price in doing so, whether it was while storming the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge or Anzio or fighting in the jungles of Guadalcanal, the Solomon Islands or in New Guinea.

These brave men fought against imperialism and fascism and literally gave their all on the battlefield to liberate countries and overthrow tyrants. They succeeded in doing so with the takeover of Berlin, where dictator Adolf Hitler killed himself as troops closed in. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was captured, killed and hung on display in front of a massive crowd. And in Japan, President Harry Truman ordered the dropping of atomic bombs that ended the war there.

These men came home heroes to huge parades and celebrations, as they rightfully deserved. After the war, some stayed in the military and went on to fight in Korea and some even fought in Vietnam. Others decided that they’d had enough of war and decided to find their place in the world by entering the workforce, starting a family or going back to school to advance their education.

Many decades have now passed since these brave men fought gallantly on the battlefield and returned to begin their lives. Sadly, as every year passes and they get older, more and more of our WWII veterans are passing away. It’s sad in many ways, but what is very sad is that with the passing of each veteran of this war, we are losing a living piece of history.

This is why it is so important to get to know the living veterans before they, too, pass. Many veterans of that war rightfully don’t like to talk about their experiences during the war, for which no one can blame them one bit.

Many WWII veterans also haven’t had the pleasure of going to our nation’s capital to visit the memorial and mall in their honor. Some can’t go perhaps because of lack of means or don’t have anyone to help them make the trip. Thankfully, that has changed with Honor Flight Bluegrass.

In June, the Honor Flight will take veterans not only from WWII, but also from Korea and Vietnam, to Washington, D.C. For the past 10 years, Honor Flight Bluegrass has offered the free annual flights for veterans to see their monuments in the nation’s capital. The flight is usually a one-day trip. This year, in honor of the 10-year anniversary, it will be a two-day trip.

Honor Flight Bluegrass is planning to fly 60 WWII veterans to see their memorial on the anniversary of D-Day, June 6. Honor Flight Bluegrass is making the rounds in the state to recruit WWII veterans for the honor. WWII veterans are dying nationally at a rate of 360 per day.

The high rate at which these brave souls are dying is all the more reason for them to get aboard these Honor Flight Bluegrass trips to see how our country has honored them in our nation’s capital with the WWII memorial and mall.

Jeff Thorke, WWII veteran coordinator for Honor Flight Bluegrass, said it best in describing the reasons to get these veterans to our nation’s capital: “There is a sense of urgency to fly World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., so we can honor them.”

We think it is a wonderful thing that Thorke and others are doing by offering these free flights to members of our “Greatest Generation.” We believe they will enjoy their trip to the memorial and seeing how much their country truly loves them for all they’ve given for us.

Online: http://www.bgdailynews.com/

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March 25

The Daily Independent of Ashland on Kentucky Wired:

Kentucky Wired, the ambitious project announced by Republican U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers of Somerset and then-Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear in 2015, is on the brink of collapse without coming close to achieving its goal of bringing high-speed Internet access to all 120 Kentucky counties.

The proposed two-year budget approved by the Kentucky Senate does not include any state money to fund Kentucky Wired for the next two years. The budget approved by the House of Representatives does include funds the broadband project requires the state to make for about $30 million to its private sector partners.

Meanwhile, officials in Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration warn it would likely cost more to kill the project than it would to finish it. That’s because the state could be responsible for paying $286 million to pay off a loan to Macquarie Capital, the Australian-based venture capital firm that along with its partners has a contract to install a network of more than 3,000 miles of fiber optic cables touching all of Kentucky’s 120 counties.

“It would be incredibly difficult for us to continue the project without the funding,” said Phillip Brown, executive director of the Kentucky Communications Network Authority, in an Associated Press article.

Brown remains convinced that if the state can finish the network and turn it on, it can make money by leasing it to private companies. We agree, but as long as the network remains unfinished, it drains tax dollars without providing promised benefits.

“We need to complete the network. There is money once the network is complete,” Brown said. “That allows me to say with 100 percent certainty this project will break even and can cover its costs.”

The entire network was supposed to be completed by the fall 2016. However, the network currently has only 708 miles of cable in place out of the 3,000 miles needed to reach all 120 counties. The delays have already forced taxpayers to reimburse contractors for $8 million in unexpected costs. Facing up to another $30 million worth of delays, the Kentucky Communications Network Authority has asked the state legislature for authority to borrow up to $110 million.

Meanwhile, AT&T;, one of the largest internet service providers in the state, says it already has 980,000 strand miles of fiber in Kentucky and has no plans to partner with Kentucky Wired.

Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel, chairman of the Senate budget committee, said it’s not likely the state would have to pay anything if it ends the project, calling the people that bought and sold the bonds “sophisticated shysters.”

“The fact is, from the day the ink was dry on the first contract, this project has been nothing but a series of delays and cost overruns,” McDaniel said. “Throwing good money after bad on this boondoggle is not something I’m going to participate in.”

Republican David Osborne, the acting House Speaker, said the project has put Kentucky in “a horrible position” with a contract “that we cannot get out of and one that was impossible to comply with.” Still, he said he would prefer for the state to complete the project so “at least we will get some residual benefit out of it.”

“The consequences of Kentucky Wired and the situation in which we find ourselves in has got to be a priority of this institution, because one way or the other, it is going to cost the state a fortune,” Osborne said.

While we share the frustrations of McDaniel and other legislators over the slow pace of building the high-speed network, backing out now strikes us as spending millions of dollars to build a road and then not completing it because it is too expensive. In our view, providing high-speed internet access to every corner of Kentucky is as important to the economic future of Kentucky in the 21st century as the building a modern system of highways was in the 20th century.

We commend AT&T; for all it has done to improve Internet access in Kentucky, but it is private company that is unlikely to invest in bringing high-speed internet access to the most remote and sparsely populated corner of the commonwealth. That’s what Kentucky Wired promises to do.

Despite all its problems, dropping Kentucky Wired now strikes us as a foolish step backward. Eliminate the problem, not the network.

Online: http://www.dailyindependent.com/


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