"The debate will put Centre and Danville and the entire state of Kentucky on the world stage in 2008, like the 2000 debate did, and the Games will put Lexington and the state on the world stage in 2010," he said. "In both cases, the state is making investments in private concerns that will benefit the public at large."
Buford agreed that the debate would "again showcase the college and the community" and would be a "good return on a state investment."
Expect to have a hard time
But he and Harmon expect to have a hard time making the case for the request - even if they're given the opportunity.
"I have concerns that Democratic leaders in the House will not want to fund this or any other request just because the requests are being made by a Republican governor running for a second term," said Harmon. "The request may not make it out the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee."
Buford predicts "there is a 75 to 80 percent chance that the money for Centre, and the money for most of the other items on the list, will win approval.
"In fact, I don't think most, if any, of the projects will even make it out of the House A and R and go to the floor of the House, much less even get to the Senate," said the member of the Senate A and R Committee.
Buford said much of his pessimism is based on the fact that the session is being held at a "highly political time" with an incumbent Republican governor seeking re-election and Democratic legislative leaders not wanting to fund projects that might be popular with voters.
"This comes at a difficult time with politics at a fever pitch," he said. "Democrats don't want to raise the level of electability for a Republican governor wanting a second term, and that's what the funding of popular state projects tend to do."
But Buford also acknowledged that legislators of both parties outside of Boyle County might have legitimate concerns about providing state money for "what they see as a piece of pork" for an affluent private college in Danville.
"While I support (the request for Centre) as a wise investment, I understand the concerns that this is not an emergency and that this is money that is going for a private college that is well-endowed," he said.
Comments Tuesday by Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, head of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, bore out Buford's concerns.
Moberly, whose committee will be the lead legislative panel in deciding the fate of Fletcher's list of projects, said Centre "may be in better shape than the state is."
Centre has an endowment of about $203 million.
Centre is one of 19 colleges and community organizations around the country that have applied to host a general election debate sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates.
The CPD is to announce the hosts of the debates - probably three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debate - in September.
The college has put together a $2.6 million budget for the debate with $1.35 million of that earmarked for the fee each applicant must pay to the CPD.
In figuring the budget, the college is assuming the total expenses of the debate would be double the amount of the fee, as it was when Centre hosted the 2000 vice-presidential debate, according to Richard W. Trollinger, vice president for college relations who is co-chairman of the debate steering committee.
Assistance outside private funding base
"In 2000 the applicant fee was $550,000, but the event ended up costing about $1 million," Trollinger said. "So when we calculated our expenses for a 2008 debate, we took the $1,350,000 fee and doubled it to make the budget $2.6 million."
In 2000 the college raised all of the $1 million it spent on the vice-presidential debate from Centre donors and other private sources. But this time the steering committee determined that it would need assistance outside of its private funding base to meet its $2.6 million budget, said Trollinger.
"We decided we needed to form a partnership with the state and have the state not only provide money for the debate but also serve as a co-host," he said.