What's Behind the Numbers in U.S. Senate Race, State Budget?

by John Gregory | 07/21/14 10:04 AM

This weekend's Comment on Kentucky is largely about money: the flow of cash going into Kentucky political campaigns, and the scramble by Gov. Steve Beshear to find money to balance the state budget.

New fundraising numbers in the U.S. Senate race between Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes and incumbent Sen. Mitch McConnell lead the discussion. The panel of Phillip M. Bailey of WFPL-FM in Louisville, Tom Loftus of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and Nick Storm of cn|2, along with moderator Bill Bryant of WKYT-TV in Lexington, detail the latest campaign finance statements for the candidates and their super PACs.

Other Political Races
In the 6th District congressional race, Nick Storm reports that incumbent Republican Andy Barr has more than $1.3 million in his campaign account, which was boosted by some $400,000 in contributions during the second quarter. Storm says Barr benefited from not having a primary campaign challenger. The Democrat in the race, Elizabeth Jensen, who runs an education non-profit, had to expend significant resources to defeat another candidate in her primary. Jensen only has $265,000 on hand.

Storm wonders when Barr will start to spend some of his reserve on television ads. He says if the congressman waits too long, there may not be any air time available because all the commercial slots will have been purchased for the U.S. Senate race.

Meanwhile, Fancy Farm organizers are finalizing the list of speakers for this year's picnic, which will be on August 2. Bill Bryant says Republican gubernatorial candidate Hal Heiner is upset that he was not invited to speak at the event. Organizers declined Heiner's request to appear since he does not currently hold a constitutional office and is not running for election this year.

And Kentucky Agriculture Secretary James Comer said he will announce his gubernatorial intentions from the Fancy Farm stage. Phillip Bailey says that will give Comer a significant platform to announce his candidacy and define the issues he believes are important.

State Budget Deficit
Tom Loftus reports that Gov. Beshear found enough reserve cash to cover the state's nearly $91 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year that ended June 30. The governor took $21 million from the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, which is specifically designed to cover budget deficits without affecting state programs.

Loftus says that transfer and other obligations against that reserve leave the Rainy Day Fund with a balance of only about $65 million. That may affect how credit agencies rate the state, and it reduces the flexibility budget officials will have to address any future shortfalls.

The rest of the deficit was covered by raiding unused funds held by government agencies, and by executing "fund transfers" from 45 small state accounts. Loftus says little-known funds like the Petroleum Storage Tank Fund and the Reduced Cigarette Ignition Propensity Fund were tapped, as well as accounts held by state boards regulating nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and insurance agents.

Watch the full Comment on Kentucky program for more on these issues, as well as discussion about state Sen. Brandon Smith's remarks about global warming, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul's efforts to connect with African-American voters.