Thursday, October 14, 2004

Fletcher blamed for flap

Senate president: Health care plan mishandled

By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer

COVINGTON - Gov. Ernie Fletcher's own inner circle is to blame for the public controversy swirling around his health care plan for state employees, according to Senate President David Williams.

The plan wasn't necessarily as bad as its been portrayed but it was mishandled when presented to the public.

"(Fletcher) was not served well by the people around him," Williams said here Wednesday. "There should have been much more vetting of this program before he just dropped it out there."

Williams, a trial lawyer, is often a polarizing figure in Frankfort but is roundly considered an effective legislator and a successful tactician. His comments are somewhat extraordinary given that both he and Fletcher are Republicans in an election year in which the GOP is trying to hold its Senate majority and pick up seats in the Democratic-controlled House.

Fletcher set off a firestorm last month when he introduced a new health plan that substantially raised costs for state employees, including teachers. He called legislators into a special legislative session last week, and late Wednesday House lawmakers unveiled a proposal that could avert a teachers' strike this month.

Williams said Fletcher and his closet advisors should have taken more time in presenting the administration's health care plan.

"The program that he presented wasn't as good as we wanted it to be, but it wasn't as bad as it was portrayed to be," he said.


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