If legislators can't adopt a budget, vote them out of office

April 21, 2004|ANNABEL GIRARD

The time may have come to throw out the babies with the bath water.

Members of the Kentucky General Assembly have one task they have to complete - adopt the state's budget.

Just imagine if our representatives and senators had been contestants on "The Apprentice." They worked for three months and didn't complete their assignment. Didn't even come close. Did not play well with others. No doubt ran with scissors. If Donald Trump had been evaluating their performance, "You're fired" would still be echoing down the marble corridors of the Capitol.

Perhaps there is a groundswell building. The lack of a state budget - twice in three years - is brought up in conversation with people I didn't really know had any interest in politics. What we all have, though, is a sense of the need for completing assignments. The 2004 General Assembly, both parties, failed miserably.

My gut feeling is that it is time for the voters to send a message and not re-elect any incumbent. That is hard to say because I have respect for some who serve in the legislature. But it also is true that a majority of the members could have brought together their collective good sense and overturned the leadership stands of either political party. The majority still rules and a majority of the members could have worked out their own compromise that would have ended the stalemate.


Part of the problem is that the members of the General Assembly just can't seem to work up enthusiasm for seeing that the state has money to operate - which includes paying their salaries. A constitutional amendment requiring no pay for the legislators until the budget is adopted would likely serve to keep them on task.

Where their time and energy goes is haggling in back corners, caucusing behind closed doors, adding amendments they don't understand and pondering really important issues, such as whether the state tree needs to be changed, or designating the official state fruit, or whether Christmas or St. Patrick's Day should be a national holiday.

If there is going to be any amendment to the state constitution, our elected senators and representatives need to start at home in the General Assembly. My choice for them to consider is: There shall be no laws made until the budget is passed. Period, end of discussion.

Another choice I find more appealing makes sense out of the General Assembly meeting every year. In the even-numbered years, the state House and Senate will adopt the budget. Period. No other business. No other discussion. Just go to Frankfort, complete the job they are elected to do and come home.

Before we in our wisdom (I use that term loosely) voted to allow special sessions, the legislators had no choice but to consider all the issues at the same time. They had one shot every two years.

Now, the odd-year sessions can be devoted to talking about pet projects, pondering the state flora and fauna, listening to every special interest group that shows up with an agenda. The many emotional issues that people bring to their elected representatives won't interfere with and politicize the job that has to be done - giving this state a budget.

Those running for seats in the House and Senate this year - incumbents and challengers - must tell us how they will prevent this year's deadlock and the one in 2002 from being repeated. Then the voters can decide if it's time to start from scratch.

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