Thursday, July 29, 2004

FOP wants into state budget suit

Lawyer: 'You either live with the law or you don't'

The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police wants to be included in a lawsuit over Gov. Ernie Fletcher's spending of state money without an enacted budget.

A motion to intervene has been filed in Franklin County Circuit Court on behalf of FOP members who are state employees.

They include FOP President Martin Scott, a commonwealth's detective from Bowling Green.

Also included are many corrections workers, Kentucky State Police and vehicle enforcement officers and attorney general's investigators, FOP attorney Stephen Wolnitzek of Covington said Wednesday.

At issue is a statute requiring 5 percent annual raises for state employees.

The General Assembly has used the budget law to suspend that statute in tight times.

It was poised to do so again this year but adjourned in April without passing a budget.

State government has been running on Fletcher's own spending plan - which provides a 2 percent raise - since July 1, the day the new fiscal year began.

Wolnitzek said he will contend in court that the law requiring a 5 percent raise is still in effect.

"You either live with the law or you don't," Wolnitzek said in a telephone interview.

The same argument is being advanced by the Kentucky Association of State Employees, which already has been allowed into the case, as have a number of other groups and individuals, including the citizens' group Common Cause and Kentucky Retirement Systems.

Judge Roger Crittenden said Wednesday he would admit three more - Democratic Reps. Harry Moberly, Joe Barrows and Jim Callahan. Moberly, of Richmond, is chairman of the powerful House appropriations committee.

Barrows is the House's majority whip and Callahan is its majority caucus chairman.

Crittenden indicated a ruling on the FOP's motion was at least two weeks away.

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