Thursday, April 22, 2004

Budget blame game spills into Senate election race

Around Northern Kentucky

Pat Crowley

To say the state budget impasse in Frankfort is a mess does a disservice to messes.

And how about the finger-pointing over the stalled passage of the state's two-year spending plan? You don't see digits waving like that unless you're on Interstate 75 at rush hour.

Senate Republicans blame House Democrats. House Democrats blame Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Senate Republicans. Senate Democrats blame Senate Republicans. House Republicans blame House Democratic leadership. Some House Democrats think their leaders could have done a better job. Gov. Fletcher blames House Democrats.

There is plenty of blame to go around, but still no solutions.

But the comments about the budget stalemate getting the most notice in Northern Kentucky came from Rep. Charlie Walton, a Florence Republican running for state Senate in the May 18 GOP primary.

In a moment of candor not often found in Frankfort, Walton pointed his finger - index, that is - at Senate President David Williams, a Republican known for his political skills, stern demeanor, eloquent speeches - and long memory.

Williams doesn't take to criticism from members of his own party. But that's what Walton gave him.

"We failed the people," Walton said. "In this instance, the people who failed the whole process were leadership, in the House and Senate side, for not getting that consensus.

"They did not get the job done," he said. "They can point fingers all they want. There are some personalities down there who have a mind-set that should not exist, and it's my way or no way.

"That does not work when you have to form a consensus."

Williams was equally miffed and baffled. It was the House Democrats, and not him, who have held up passage of the budget. Even Fletcher said so.

"The Senate Republicans took the leadership," Gov. Fletcher said. "Sen. Williams worked very well with being able to negotiate with the House Democrats."

Give Walton credit for breaking party ranks, but also know that his comments are somewhat couched in politics.

In the primary, Walton is challenging Senate President Pro Tem Dick Roeding, R-Lakeside Park, a member of the Senate leadership that Walton is bashing, for Roeding's 11th District state Senate seat.

Roeding is supported by Williams, so it's not a stretch to see why Walton is going after Senate GOP leadership.

"Well, I think we've got a maverick Republican there," Roeding said of Walton.

A maverick willing to speak his mind - even if it costs him political points in Frankfort.

E-mail Crowley interviews lobbyist and GOP consultant Marc Wilson this week on ICN6's "On the Record," which is broadcast daily on Insight Communications Channel 6.

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