The following letter to the editor appeared in the Louisville Courier-Journal this morning. Please visit the newspaper’s site and leave your thoughts in the comment section!
Interested in how much a legislator earns for part-time work in Frankfort? No problem! You can find out through the Kentucky Open Records Act. Do you want to know how much of your hard-earned money was spent in a specific school district? Would you like to see an itemized check register? Again, no problem! Just do an open records request.
You may even want to take a look at the travel expenses for specific departments in Frankfort. Good news! You can access that information, too. But let’s say you want to find out how much your part-time legislator is raking in through Kentucky’s public pension system. Good luck. Apparently the Kentucky General Assembly doesn’t deem you worthy of that information. It seems odd that taxpayers can access just about every sort of public spending information imaginable except for that related to public pensions.
Why is this the case? Transparency is the first step toward accountability. As of today, Kentucky taxpayers have no way of holding their government accountable for the $34 billion unfunded liability that is sinking the state. If Kentucky’s legislators truly want to represent the people of their state, they will waste no time in opening the books on the Kentucky Retirement System and making those pensions transparent.
Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions
The Bluegrass Institute has been working hard to bring attention to the lack of transparency in the public pension system for several years now. You can read more about these issues here.
As reported previously, what could be the first piece of charter school legislation in the commonwealth of Kentucky has officially been filed in the House. A link to HB 176, sponsored by Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville, can be found here.
According to Hallie Bray, a parent and education advocate supporting the measure:
As the mother of two, I believe allowing public charter schools in Kentucky will create options for parents and opportunity for our children. Parents and students in Kentucky public schools should have the same educational opportunities that are available to parents and students in other states.
Kentucky would be the 43rd state in the nation to allow for the school choice provided by charter schools.
Public pension debt is sinking Kentucky and it is being done behind closed doors.
Demand that legislators make the public pension system transparent!
Included in KRS 61.661 is language that ensures public pension disbursements are not subject to open records laws.Kentucky has been broken by a $34 billion unfunded public pension liability and taxpayers don’t have a chance of holding their government accountable without transparency.
Contact your legislator (call toll-free (800) 372-7181) and tell them you want to know how your tax dollars are being spent in the Kentucky Retirement System.
January 8th proved to be an auspicious day for Kentucky’s 2013 legislative session. That’s because January 8th was the day Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville filed a bill that might finally bring school choice and real opportunity for those most in need in the commonwealth – underprivileged kids.
Though 42 states in the nation – most recently Washington state, as of late last year – have already picked that low hanging fruit, Kentucky has yet to take the steps necessary to establish charter school legislation. This is especially galling seeing as how Kentucky consistently ranks as one of the most under-performing states on national standardized tests.
And excuses from educational union bosses and House Education Committee Chair Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, which claim charter schools don’t measure up, are becoming thinner by the day. Most recently, reports from the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that students in both New Jersey and Indiana have performed better in charter schools than their traditional public school counterparts.
Rep. Montell drives the point home:
“This legislation is designed to finally bring Kentucky into the 21st century in terms of educational opportunities for public school students. Forty-two other states have public charter schools and most are ranked higher in student performance than Kentucky schools. States with the strongest charter school laws are getting the best results. It makes no sense for Kentucky to continue to ban charter schools as an option to improve educational outcomes for students in our Commonwealth.”
This past week, the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet released the 12th edition of “Kentucky Coal Facts,” an annual publication that spells out anything a Kentuckian might want to know about the commonwealth’s most prized natural resource.
According to the report, the industry contributed approximately $4 billion to the commonwealth’s economy in 2011. Kentucky was the third largest producer of coal in the nation with over 100,000 tons of coal mined, or 10% of the nation’s total. Approximately one-quarter of the coal mined in Kentucky remained in the commonwealth – that’s one-quarter of Kentucky’s total coal production that would be exempt from the ever-encroaching fist of the Environmental Protection Agency should the Bluegrass Institute-sponsored Intrastate Coal and Use Act become the law of the land.
Also noteworthy is that while the nation as a whole generates 42% of its electricity needs from coal, in Kentucky we continue to generate a whopping 93% of our electricity from coal. Because of our reliance on coal, Kentucky has enjoyed some of the lowest energy rates in the nation, and at 7.1 cents per kilowatt-hour we had the fourth lowest average electricity costs in 2011. This is good not only for our residents, but also for the possibility of attracting further business to the commonwealth.
However, after 20 years of falling energy rates in inflation-adjusted terms, over the past ten years electricity rates have been rising – a predicament aggravated by the EPA’s unprecedented new regulations in recent years. As the report notes:
[I]n the near-term the price of electricity in Kentucky will be most affected by fuel prices and environmental regulations. Whether coal use continues at historical levels or more natural gas is integrated, the price of electricity will fluctuate most quickly dependent on the price of fuel commodities consumed by electric utilities. The way in which electric utilities choose to comply with new environmental regulations will also shape future rates and ultimate consumer costs.