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Beshear Sees Cutting Out Waste As Another Revenue Source

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Steve Beshear supports limited casino
gambling as a new state revenue source, but the Democratic
gubernatorial nominee also mentions a more traditional method of
finding money for his agenda - weeding out government waste.
At a forum with Gov. Ernie Fletcher, his Republican opponent,
Beshear said Wednesday he would order a sweeping review of state
government operations if elected.
"We're going to look at everything - from the kind of light
bulbs we buy, to where we buy gas for the state fleet," Beshear
said at the event sponsored by Kentucky Farm Bureau.
He suggested the review could yield as much as $180 million a
year in savings.
The idea of making state government more efficient is nothing
new.
"Every would-be governor is going to come in saying, `I think
we can do things a little better,"' Joe Gershtenson, director of
the Center for Kentucky History and Politics at Eastern Kentucky
University, said Thursday.
Four years ago, Fletcher promised to root out "waste, fraud and
abuse" in state government on his way to being elected governor.
Soon after taking office, Fletcher ordered a review to try to
squeeze out inefficiencies in government. In one move, the governor
trimmed the number of cabinets to nine from 14. Fletcher says his
administration also canceled hundreds of state credit cards,
toughened scrutiny of construction projects and collected tens of
millions in delinquent taxes.
Fletcher said Thursday his efforts to streamline government have
netted big savings.
"I would say, has Steve Beshear been asleep?" Fletcher said of
his opponent's call for a comprehensive review. "Does he know
what's going on in Frankfort?"
Beshear shot back, "It seems to me they've been more interested
in hiring their political friends than making government more
efficient."
The comment referred to a probe into allegations that the
Fletcher administration illegally rewarded political supporters
with state jobs. The investigation resulted in more than two dozen
indictments, including charges against Fletcher. The governor's
charges were dropped later after an agreement with prosecutors.
Beshear's estimate of savings from a government review was based
on studies in other states that reaped savings averaging 2 percent
of state general fund budgets, he said.
Fletcher agreed that more savings can be achieved in state
operations.
"I'm saying we'll probably save another $180 (million) plus,"
he said.
Bruce Lunsford, a Louisville businessman who finished second
behind Beshear in the May Democratic gubernatorial primary, said
anyone trying to trim government has one overriding challenge:
"Are you willing to take on the special interest groups to do
it?"
Lunsford, who stressed government efficiency in his two runs for
governor, said government programs got started because they had
strong supporters.
"What you have to figure out is how do you become more
efficient with the production, without changing policy," he said.
"Because policy is always hardest to change."
Beshear said the study he envisions would look at how state
government does business: "How we buy things, where we buy them
and what we buy."
He said he wanted to involved state employees in the review,
adding "Who knows better where efficiencies lie in state
government than state employees." He said the findings wouldn't
lead to a reduction in state government's work force. If the study
found ways to combine operations, he said, "we'll find other needs
for people who are there."
Lee A. Jackson, president of the Kentucky Association of State
Employees, said he had no problem with a review as long as it
didn't involve reducing the state work force.
"State government is cut, personnel-wise, to the bone," he
said.
At the forum Wednesday, Beshear mentioned savings from
government operations, along with economic growth, as ways to fund
some of his initiatives. "If that's all the money I've got, then
I'll move this state forward with that money," he said.
At the forum, Beshear said he wanted to expand early childhood
education, extend health coverage to uninsured children and assist
the elderly with prescription drug costs.
Beshear also touted a constitutional amendment legalizing
limited casino gaming, saying the state won't move "as far, as
fast" without the extra revenue. He supports allowing casino
gambling at racetracks and a handful of freestanding facilities
along Kentucky's borders, predicting it would generate at least
$500 million a year in state revenue.
Fletcher opposes putting the expanded gambling issue on the
ballot, saying it would lead to social ills without producing the
kind of long-term revenue touted by Beshear.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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