Up to now, many people have focused on politics in analyzing the General Assembly’s failure to pass a budget for the 2011-2012 biennium that begins July 1.
Today I sent a letter to all 138 legislators and called a press conference to shift the conversation from politics to people, the Kentucky families who – if the legislature doesn’t act soon -- would be denied needed services and programs in a critical time.
I also have asked my Cabinet secretaries to begin planning for a potential shutdown of certain state government services as required by the decision rendered in the 2005 Kentucky Supreme Court case of Fletcher v. Commonwealth.
The decision made it clear that only the General Assembly can allocate funds, and so, without a budget, government must shut down, with some exceptions.
Our interpretation of that decision – which is clear in some areas but not others, is this:
In the absence of a budget, we will be forced to shut down:
• All Kentucky state parks and tourism programs.
• Economic development and job-creation initiatives.
• The Office of the Medical Examiner.
• All state-provided mine safety inspections and mine rescue teams.
In addition, the court case may require the termination of state funding for:
• State Police.
• Vehicle Enforcement.
• Public colleges, universities and KCTCS.
• Existing road construction projects.
• Veterans’ nursing homes.
• Regulatory and licensing agencies.
• Health and Family Services programs, including Medicaid, mental health hospitals, public health departments and aging services.
These lists are not comprehensive.
Now, I hope that doesn’t happen.
I don’t want that to happen.
And it doesn’t have to happen.
The General Assembly can put aside differences and get the job done.
I have been meeting with President Williams and Speaker Stumbo, and already there appears to be progress on issues in contention. I will continue to work with them to facilitate an agreement in time for a special session that I will call in May.
Time is short.
By law, we must have a budget by July 1. Practical reality demands we have one by June 1.
Consensus is achievable.
But as governor of this commonwealth, it is my sworn duty to prepare Kentucky for any emergency. And thus I’m preparing our government and our people for life without a budget.
The impact could be cataclysmic.