Budget Strains Pare Back Kentucky Colonel Commissions

FRANKFORT, KY -- A budget crunch threatens to curtail the glories of receiving one of the most prestigious commissions awarded each year in Kentucky... one that conjures up the image of a genteel Southerner... The Kentucky Colonelship.

That award has included some of the world's most rich and famous - such as: Col. Elvis Presley, Col. Muhammad Ali and Col. Pope John Paul II.

They all received ornate certificates to accompany the honorary rank that Kentucky bestows on thousands of people each year, but this tradition, like other aspects of state government, is being pared back to fit into the constraints of a lean budget.

The certificates won't be eliminated, but the state plans to scrap the hand-pasted gold seals and blue ribbons that adorn each one and to reduce the size from 10 by 15 inches to 81/2 by 14 inches.

To make up for the smaller size, the new certificates will be embossed with raised letters across the top with the state seal stamped in blue and gold at the bottom. Secretary of State Trey Grayson said the new certificate "looks better and costs less."

The change will make a $5,000 annual dent in a nearly $1 billion budget shortfall that is prompting the state to take drastic steps, including cutting about 3,400 jobs.

The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, a philanthropic group, acknowledged that the state needs to cut costs.

"Unfortunately, it's one of those necessary evils. We certainly wish it wasn't necessary," said Glen Bastin, the order's chief operating officer. The order has offered to pay $5,000 a year to keep printing the old certificates and the state is looking at the possibility, Bastin said.

Copyright - The Associated Press

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