Friday, April 22, 2016

Last Call For Dispatches From Bevinstan

It's been a busy week for Kentucky GOP Gov. Matt Bevin, a week after signing his austerity budget into law that cuts nearly five percent from state spending across the board.  First, he's decided to use his power as governor to go after his political enemies by demanding a corruption investigation into previous Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear, and Beshear's son and current KY Attorney General Andy Beshear.

Kentucky’s Republican governor on Tuesday ordered an investigation into what he described as wrongdoing under his Democratic predecessor, charging that state employees were coerced into contributing to political campaigns and that a contract was improperly steered to a politically connected company. 
Gov. Matt Bevin’s allegation of “greed and oftentimes corruption” escalates the feud between the new governor, who took office in December, and the Beshear family: former Gov. Steven L. Beshear and his son Andy, the state attorney general. On April 11, Andy Beshear sued Mr. Bevin, saying the governor acted illegally in cutting higher education spending without approval by the Legislature. Steven Beshear is leading a public-relations campaign against his successor’s moves to roll back the state’s expansion of health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. 
A former state official close to the Beshears, Timothy M. Longmeyer, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal bribery charge, a case Mr. Bevin referred to in calling for a new investigation. As a member of Steve Beshear’s cabinet, Mr. Longmeyer steered contracts related to the health plan for state employees to a company that paid him kickbacks. Mr. Longmeyer briefly served this year as a deputy attorney general, under Andy Beshear, before resigning. 
In a brief statement, Mr. Bevin said that in his months in office, his administration had found evidence that state workers were forced to contribute last year to the campaigns of Andy Beshear and Jack Conway, the previous attorney general, who was Mr. Bevin’s Democratic opponent in the race for governor. And he charged that the state had awarded a $3 million no-bid contract to a company with ties to Steve Beshear’s administration.

Some pretty hefty allegations there.  Bevin of course refuses to go to the existing state Ethics Commission, but is instead hiring his own "independent investigative team" to go after the Beshears.

Meanwhile, Bevin's "pension reforms" start with the firing of the state's top pension board official and replacing him with a Bevin donor who wants to dismantle the entire state pension fund.

Thomas K. Elliott, a senior vice president at Old National Bank in Louisville, was reappointed last year by Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear to a four-year term. However, Bevin, a Republican, issued an executive order citing a state law that suggests that a governor can revoke any gubernatorial appointment for any reason at any time, exempting university boards, the Council on Postsecondary Education and the state Board of Education.

Meet Elliott's replacement, William F. Smith, who wrote this gem of an article last year, calling the pension system a "Ponzi scheme" and ranting that promised pension payments to state employees cannot be legally enforced:

Beshear must recognize that a task force, audit or blue ribbon panel will not produce the solution to this pension crisis. This pension crisis will not be resolved by actuaries, attorneys or pension consultants, who will take our money and provide little or nothing in return. 
This crisis is above the legislature, the attorney general, and the state auditor. It is beyond the control of the Chamber of Commerce, the KLC, KACO, and even KFC, with all due respect to Colonel Sanders. This $48 billion pension crisis is prima facie evidence of a crime that will require immediate executive action by a governor willing to cross party lines and oppose political allies to save the state from a financial disaster created entirely by our own public officials. 
It should be clear to the governor that the KRS benefit formula is actuarially unsound and does not match the funding mechanism. It should be clear to the governor that beneficiaries are allowed to manipulate pension benefits beyond the parameters established by KRS actuaries. 
It should be clear to everyone that the system is underfunded because pension benefits were allowed to exceed the capacity of the system to generate revenue, and not because funding from taxpayers has been inadequate. The KRS policies that created these deficits are actuarially unsound by design, invalidating the entire KRS system and potentially making KRS executives and trustees, and state executives and legislators liable for the damages to the state created by the $48 billion deficit.

And this guy is now in charge of the same pension system he wants to obliterate, with payments to tens of thousands of state employees in the balance.

Welcome to Bevinstan.

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