Petty partisanship over Stumbo's budget


The News Enterprise,


Gov. Ernie Fletcher, who admits his administration made mistakes in the hiring of some state employees, who pardoned indicted staff and associates, who issued blanket amnesty for anyone else indicted, who has refused to talk to the grand jury, and who is appointing two judges in the case involving him, now wants to whack the budget of the attorney general investigating him.

The two-year spending plan proposed by the governor a week ago shaves more than $570,000 from Attorney General Greg Stumbos office the next fiscal year and another $791,000 the following year.

Its not likely just a coincidence that since last May, Stumbos office has been investigating reports of alleged violations of state personnel laws that require the hiring of state employees on the basis of qualifications instead of political affiliation. The investigation began with allegations by a former Transportation Cabinet employee.

Developments this past week included the disclosure that a former executive secretary in the Transportation Cabinet told prosecutors last July she had helped screen prospective job candidates for their political contributions and party affiliations. And three county prosecutors, including the president of the Commonwealth Attorneys Association, a Democrat, said the Republican governors budget director asked them to urge Stumbo, also a Democrat, to drop the investigation.

Budget Director Brad Cowgill and Republican prosecutors involved in the meeting denied the accusation and the governors office backed Cowgill.

Stumbo told a House budget subcommittee this week the administration refused to meet with him or his representatives to discuss the budget cuts. An administration spokesman said no such request was received by the governors office.

But theres one thing thats not hard to believe. Deny it though he might, Fletchers proposed cuts in the attorney generals budget has reached a new high, or is it low, for petty political partisanship.

Stumbo told the subcommittee that including the resulting loss in federal matching funds, the cuts would reduce his current $25.9 million budget by about $2 million. He said his office would have less money for victim advocacy, consumer protection and utility rate interventions, Medicaid fraud and other criminal investigations and for public corruption probes.

Taxpayers and Kentuckians only can hope and pray that members of the General Assembly, Republicans as well as Democrats, are thinking more rationally than the embattled governor and his staff have been since this investigation began.

Explaining the cuts in the attorney generals budget, Fletcher said last week that he proposed increased spending in the places of people that are really fighting crime, such as the Kentucky State Police troopers and parole officers. He said Stumbos office would have enough money.

If hell focus his resources on what hes supposed to be doing, hell have plenty of resources to accomplish his goals.

So now, in the latest act in this political theater of the absurd, the star, a governor who has overstepped the authority of his office by trying to block the work of a citizen-grand jury, who has abused his privilege of executive pardons, who has refused to set the record straight by talking to the grand jury, and who insists on a blatant conflict of interest in the appointment of two judges to rule in his own case, now is trying to handcuff the attorney general by cutting his budget.

Cmon, governor. The attorney general is doing exactly what he is supposed to be doing.

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