Unprecedented obstruction

By Reps. Joni Jenkins, Jim Wayne, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl Owens, George Brown Jr. and David Watkins

When a new governor is elected, it should be incumbent upon all parties to work together, establish trust and build relationships, especially in a budget session where so much is at stake.

From the beginning, however, we have been operating at a trust deficit.

Matt Bevin promised during his campaign to release his tax returns, but then once elected, refused to release them.

Fast forward to the 2016 legislative session, in which the General Assembly is required to pass a state budget during a 60-day session.

This is Day 36 of the legislative session, and the House’s human services budget subcommittee is still waiting for vital budget information from new Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Vickie Yates Brown Glisson.

Sec. Glisson and Cabinet officials have promised — but have yet to deliver — specific details on where the drastic cuts proposed by the governor will be made except to say the cuts will be made without affecting services.

Officials from the top down have been elusive on details – facts desperately needed so the House can put together a reasonable budget that serves our state in the best way.

We need to know how the cuts will affect domestic violence services, mental health care, and programs for seniors and children’s homes such as Home of the Innocents, Methodist Homes for Children and Youth and Wendell Foster’s Campus for Developmental Disabilities.

State lawmakers have been asked to trust, even when numbers that are provided do not add up.

For instance, we’ve been asked to accept estimated costs in dismantling the successful kynect health insurance exchange on a “trust me” basis.

The estimated $23 million it will cost to dismantle this nationally heralded program is refuted by the administration without proof or a suggestion of their idea of the cost.

The administration also claims that destroying kynect is a smart financial move, yet it has recently come to light that Kentucky will have to give back tens of millions of dollars to the federal government.

How do we build a budget based on invisible numbers, evasive answers and empty promises?

The Senate leadership is now demanding a budget document from the House, but how do we craft a complex budget out of thin air?

We are not alone in our frustration. Every House budget subcommittee is facing the same stonewalling from administration officials on details of how the implementation of the proposed cuts will affect the commonwealth and its citizens.

With the scope and breadth of the decisions that remain before the gavel falls in April, this is no time for a trust deficit. The challenges and stakes for Kentucky families are too high.

Our responsibility as members of the committee and as state representatives is being severely impaired by the lack of information, transparency and honesty from Gov. Bevin, Sec. Glisson and her staff.

It is time to end this unprecedented obstruction and get down to business.

Rep. Joni Jenkins is chair of House Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Services, and Reps. Jim Wayne, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl Owens, George Brown Jr. and David Watkins are members of House Budget Review Subcommittee on Human Services.

By Reps. Joni Jenkins, Jim Wayne, Mary Lou Marzian, Darryl Owens, George Brown Jr. and David Watkins

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