A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Jim Wayne: Governor Bevin’s proposed budget hurts Kentucky; voters must raise the bar on legislators

One of my favorite spots in Kentucky is on top of a steep knob overlooking the Rolling Fork River valley in Marion County. The reward of a strenuous hike to this peak is sitting on a limestone outcropping on a clear winter day seeing the log home of my great great grandparents, the wide river valley pasture below, spotted with Angus cows and, beyond the river, the forests and fields of Casey County. This spot is a place of inspiration and imagination.
 
My ancestors migrated to this land of knobs and lush valleys because they sought a better way of living for themselves and their children. Kentucky offered opportunities to farm, build communities and financial security.
 
Nearly 200 years later, as I sit staring through the naked trees on the land I love, I question why our Commonwealth has failed to live up to its potential. Why do we have nearly one in four of our children living in dire poverty? Why do we have such a sick people? Why are opportunities for higher education so expensive? Why are so many of our public schools struggling? Why are so many suffering mental illness? Why are our young people being sent to early graves by guns and drugs? Why do our prisons continue to house far too many? Why are our political leaders so short-sighted and lacking vision to invest in our people?

As a state legislator for over 27 years, I am frustrated and angry with a status quo in Frankfort that condemns so many to limited economic and academic opportunities, poor mental and physical health, violence and environmental degradation.
 
Right-wing Republicans and timid Democrats wait for the free market to miraculously save us, like Deus ex machina, in a Greek drama.
 
The free market will not rescue us. It never has and never will because it is based on profit and greed, not the common good.  Economists, health experts and sociologists from each end of the political spectrum have been telling us for years about our downward spiral.  Still the power brokers of Frankfort refuse to act, or perhaps more accurately, do not have the leadership abilities and moral courage to act to raise revenue and invest in our people.
 
The budget proposed by our Republican governor is a disgrace. It does everything to make the state of our Commonwealth worse: disinvesting in education, healthcare, environmental protection, public protections, the courts, child and adult protection, foster care, transportation and drug rehab.
 
Instead of building coalitions of citizen and legislative groups to enact fair, adequate and modern tax reforms to boost the amount of money to invest in Kentucky, these Republicans (and some Democratic accomplices) starve our people of life-giving programs and services. This strategy is killing people. This strategy feeds the decline of our Commonwealth further, moving us closer to becoming a third world country.
 
No state budget should be passed this legislative session without first revamping our tax system. Do the leaders in Frankfort have the skill and moral fiber to tackle this long-delayed policy emergency?
 
If they refuse or can’t, as so many leaders in both parties have refused or couldn’t during the last 20 years, then the people of Kentucky must replace them. The time for redirecting our resources and energies into our people is now. Delaying compounds our many troubles and pushes us further behind in every category of wellness as a people.
 
The hopes and dreams in the hearts of my ancestors who settled in the geographic center of Kentucky are my hopes and dreams as we face the challenges before us: to build a community of caring, well educated, thriving people in a state with an abundance of natural resources, beauty and talent. Unless we collectively invest in ourselves we face a present and a future of increased poverty, ill health and ignorance, a widening economic gap, and environmental degradation.
 
What can you do? Raise the bar on your legislators. Tell them to refuse the governor’s budget proposal and demand tax reform now so we save ourselves.

Jim Wayne represents Kentucky’s 35th State House district including the cities of Audubon Park, Louisville, Lynnview, Parkway Village, South Park View and Watterson Park in Jefferson County

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