Lt. Gov. Pence blasts House leadership for legislative 'mess'

May 05, 2004|HERB BROCK

Lt. Gov. Steve Pence called Tuesday night for a "change" in the House leadership, labeling Speaker Jody Richards and other Democratic leaders as "obstructionists" and giving them full blame for the budget "mess" in Frankfort and the "state of embarrassment that the commonwealth now finds itself in."

Efforts to reach an agreement on the budget and Gov. Ernie Fletcher's tax modernization plan have been marred by "good ol' boy politics, not good faith compromising," said Pence, referring to Richard's claim that he has been making a good faith effort to reach an agreement during negotiations with Fletcher.

The actions of the House Democrats, both during the 2004 legislative session and since it adjourned two weeks ago, have been based entirely on a political calculation to keep Fletcher from being able to fulfill his campaign promises to enact a lean but sound budget and pass tax reform, he said.

"They are afraid to give the governor a victory," he said.


Pence's salvos were fired during a speech at the John Sherman Cooper Dinner hosted by the Centre College Chapter of College Republicans at the Norton Center for the Arts. He was presented with the chapter's John Sherman Cooper Award for Commitment to Conservatism.

Also at the dinner were two of the three Republican candidates in this month's primary for the 6th District U.S. House seat captured last fall by Democrat Ben Chandler after Fletcher vacated it - state Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, and the Rev. Don Swarthout of Lexington. The third candidate, Bryan Coffman of Lexington, was unable to attend the dinner because he was at a rally in Cincinnati for President Bush.

He goes after conclusions that the blame should be shared

In his speech, Pence quickly went after conclusions of many media pundits that the blame for the stalemate over the budget and tax reform plan should be shared by Fletcher, Senate Republicans and House Democrats.

"Why we have such a mess, the failure to produce a budget, as required by the state constitution, is a question people are answering by pointing fingers at everyone," he said. "But the blame should not be laid on everyone. It should not be shared. It belongs with the House leadership.

"During the (2003 gubernatorial campaign), Gov. Fletcher and I presented a clear message, that we would present a budget that would be painful for some but balanced and that we would present a tax modernization plan, something Democrats had promised but had never accomplished.

"And it was just six months ago that the voters of this state overwhelmingly said 'yes,' they wanted the balanced budget and fiscal responsibility we had promised, and 'yes,' they wanted the tax modernization plan we had promised," said Pence, referring to his and Fletcher's 10-point victory over the Democrat's Chandler-Owen ticket.

Opposition to both Fletcher's budget and tax reform plan was orchestrated by the leaders of the Democratic-controlled House "out of fear of allowing the governor to make good on his campaign promises, to claim he did exactly what he promised the voters he would do," he said. "The record will show the governor came through on his promises and that the Democrat leadership were obstructionists. "Does it sound like I'm picking on Democrats? Well, I am," said Pence, drawing laughter from the audience. "And I am especially picking on the House leadership. They are responsible for the state of embarrassment the commonwealth finds itself in.

"Unless we get a change in the House leadership, we will be getting the same lousy results for years to come."

Buford, Swarthout stress conservative positions

In interviews before the dinner, 6th District congressional candidates Buford and Swarthout said they are stressing their conservative positions - Buford on fiscal matters and Swarthout on social issues.

Buford said he would vote to make permanent President Bush's tax cuts and work to promote a tobacco buyout measure. Noting that his son, Beau Buford, is in the Navy and recently served in Iraq, the senator said he supports the war.

Swarthout said he would vote for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage "or whatever else it takes to protect the sanctity of marriage as it was meant to be, between a man and a woman." Saying he opposes abortion "down the line, in each and every situation," the evangelist and head of Christians Reviving America's Values said he also would support any measure aimed at curbing or eliminating abortions. He also supports the war.

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