"Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity..." - Hunter S. Thompson (pbuh), 1973

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Uhh, Wait - We're NOT Getting Paid??

Slacked off this week, but this issue came to the fore, and I had to do a double-take. Odd that a group of people who endorse merit-based salaries are the very same who bristle at the idea of not getting paid when they themselves have accomplished nothing of merit. Credit goes to WLEX for reporting this.

Legislative Pay On Hold

FRANKFORT- Lawmakers caught in legislative limbo with the House adjourned and the Senate in recess won't get paid for any additional days for now.
Legislative Research Commission Director Bobby Sherman said Friday he has ordered a hold on any further salaries and expenses associated with the special legislative session until Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear decides to veto or let stand language in a Medicaid budget bill that bars payment during a 10-day recess that would end April 6.
The total amount in question could exceed $600,000 for all of the state's 138 lawmakers.

"In a normal situation, even though this is not normal, a session continues until the last chamber is out," Sherman said. "And normally that would mean both sides, all members, would get paid until the General Assembly ends, which is when the last chamber leaves."

But the odd twist of some lawmakers being adjourned while others are in recess coupled with the no-pay provision complicates matters.

"I don't know what's going to happen with that provision, because the governor could let it stand, or the governor could veto it in its entirely, or the governor could veto part of it and turn it into something that doesn't say exactly what it says now," Sherman said.

Lawmakers had been meeting in special legislative session since March 14 at a cost of about $64,000 a day. Beshear called them back to Frankfort just days after they adjourned the regular session, which ended in discord and without an agreement on how to fill a budget gap in the Medicaid program that provides care for more than 800,000 elderly, poor and disabled Kentuckians.

The Medicaid issue had become politically charged in a gubernatorial election year. Beshear is seeking re-election, though he's unopposed in the May 17 Democratic primary. Republican Senate President David Williams is one of three candidates seeking the GOP nomination to run against Beshear.

The pay issue is certain to be fodder for stump speeches if Beshear and Williams end up facing each other in the general election.

In an unexpected move that effectively ended the special session, the House voted Thursday night to accept a Senate proposal
to shore up Medicaid, but only after receiving assurance from Beshear that he would veto objectionable provisions.

The proposal includes cuts to most government agencies to free up money for Medicaid. The Democratic-controlled House had
vehemently opposed that.

Beshear has tentatively scheduled a press conference Thursday afternoon to address the issue.

The governor had warned lawmakers that unless they pass legislation to fill the Medicaid gap by the end of the month, Medicaid providers would face 35 percent cuts in reimbursement rates, largely because of an influx of new recipients added to the rolls during the economic recession.

Beshear had asked lawmakers to pass legislation transferring $166.5 from next year's budget to shore up Medicaid this year. Then, next year's $425 million budget gap will be plugged using privatization.

The Senate's proposal that was approved by the House would require cuts to most government agencies of 0.35 percent in the current fiscal year and 1.74 percent next fiscal year. The House called those cuts unacceptable and proposed a measure earlier this week that calls for triggered cuts that would kick in only if the privatization doesn't work.

The governor has line-item veto power to essentially strike everything from the Medicaid bill except the transfer provision if he chooses. He assured House lawmakers in a letter Thursday that the proposed cuts would be vetoed.

After passing the legislation late Thursday night, House lawmakers adjourned until January when they're scheduled to return or the 2012 session. Meanwhile, the Senate recessed until April 6 when it would return to Frankfort to consider overriding vetoes, an apparently futile move because the House would have to agree to overrides.

Stumbo said the House has no intention of returning into session or of overriding Beshear's vetoes because members don't want to be paid for any additional days.

"We adjourned sine die," Stumbo said Friday. "We believe our business is through. We suggest the Senate should reconvene itself and do the same."

Williams has an entirely different take on legislative pay, insisting that the language in the Medicaid budget bill halts it altogether.

"Legislators are not being paid," he told reporters.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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