July brings the start of a new fiscal year in Kentucky and new record high budgeted expenditures. Ignoring the risk of this new spending leap of faith is a bipartisan affair in Frankfort, as is, apparently, not acknowledging the end of the Obama stimulus money and the folly of continuing to borrow like the state has in recent years.
State budget statistics conveniently leave out the more than $3 billion in received stimulus funds coinciding with Frankfort’s often-repeated claim of balancing the budget eight times in the last 3 1/2 years. They also gloss over the additional $3 billion in bonded debt added over the same period. And billions more in underfunded public employee pension obligations we will be forced to deal with soon.
Governor Steve Beshear has promised to announce specific Medicaid plans this week. Even if he does so, continuing to ignore the multibillion dollar elephant in the room until after the November election serves only the politicians who already have secure jobs and pensions.
Making real, sizable and permanent spending cuts should have been the front-burner issue three years ago. Forcing politicians to talk about it now while they seek our votes is the best thing we can do to set the stage for real action next year.
If we don’t at least try to hold their feet to the fire now, we may wish we had when they lead off in January with bipartisan demands for emergency tax increases to “balance” the budget again.