William McCann: Bevin’s budget is more of the same, legislators must look beyond traditional solutions

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Governor Bevin — in his budget address to the Kentucky General Assembly — has called for budget tightening so severe it is going to mean the death of 70 programs and an across-the-board spending cuts of 6.25%. He is saving the principle funding program for K-12 education, SEEK, but asking school districts to pay the majority of the cost of pupil transportation.

We’ve seen this movie play out before.

Democrats and special interest groups will cry out about the pain inflicted (and there will be lots of that) and they will march and protest and submit bills and amendments to change the governor’s proposals which will ultimately be ignored.

Republicans by turn will have to justify eliminating such things as eliminating mammograms for women and prostate exams for men, they will have to explain how throwing 500,000 people off insurance programs will save money at the expense of the health of our state’s poorest citizens. Which they will somehow accomplish even while attending church on Sundays and harassing LRC employees during the week.

Then, along about the first week of April the House and Senate will somehow (with their large Republican and male memberships) pass a budget that saves prostate exams for men and makes nary another change to what the Governor proposes because “we have to be fiscally responsible and deal with the budget and enacting pension reform.

Look for solutions that are more than cut programs that hurt the poor and the middle class (Republicans) and we don’t want to raise taxes but you’ve got to cut programs that help the wealthy and titans of industry (Democrats).

But there is another way.

Run government as a business. With this in mind the members of the legislature might reach beyond the “traditional” solutions to consider:

• Use of the rest areas as ways to generate income.

• Instead, use part of the building space to promote and sell Kentucky arts and crafts

• Use another part of building as a restaurant to sell sit down meals that feature Kentucky Proud products.

The spaces can be rented to artists, businesses, restaurants thereby helping create small business opportunities for lots of artists and more than a smattering of restaurateurs. The upside for all travelers will be increased safety after dark at the state’s rest areas.

Start a commercial internet television network. (KET is a non-commercial broadcast network devoted to educational programming.) With the help of a green screen a studio in a space the size of the governor’s (actual) office could produce 24 hours of programming for year around broadcasting. Arts organizations businesses, agencies of government could all have programs on the network which would broadcast to an audience not in Kentucky but across the globe on a 24/7/365 basis with the programming available on home and business computers and as close to them as an Android or iPhone. And advertising income for such a venture would more than pay the expenses of the facility and personnel with profits that could support the government as a whole.

Finally, start a commercial publisher for books. From romances to mysteries and even plays a commercial publisher would give artists in Kentucky opportunities to have their works read and appreciated. And, of course, the income (and taxes) generated would benefit the state’s coffers while the writers would get royalties.

(The University Press of Kentucky is a non-commercial academic publishing house with a limited range of topics and interests. Governor Bevin has also proposed that it no longer be funded by the state which may lead to its eventual demise.)

Of course there are problems which will come with these ideas—corruption will find a way to enter these markets, politicians will seek to control them, and supporters and hangers on will always seek an advantage.

Nothing new in any of that—which is why we have and need a free press.

It is why we have elections.

And these issues and concerns should be kept in mind as rules and regulations are made to structure and control these and similar programs.
On the other hand, why not let artists sell their products in highway rest areas? Why not let Kentucky Proud products be sold in those same rest areas? Why not require restaurants that operate in rest areas to use Kentucky Proud produce, meats and other products to make the meals that they’ll serve?

Why not create a television network? Who knows, maybe politicians running for office will advertise on the shows resulting in politician funded elections?

Finally, the commercial publishing group may help Kentucky writers gain a larger foothold, a better appreciation outside Kentucky after they appear on the commercial internet television network and are available to tourists who stop at rest stops in their travels and stops here in the Commonwealth.

William H. McCann, Jr. a playwright, poet, editor, and publisher who edits the Kentucky Theatre Yearbook. He lives near Corinth.

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