Recent editorials from Kentucky newspapers:
Owensboro (Ky.) Messenger-Inquirer on state pension reform:
At the August joint board meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Kentucky was referred to as the "Greece of the United States."
That painful description was brought to light by Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President David Adkisson when he spoke to the Owensboro Noon Rotary Club recently.
In his presentation, Adkisson, former mayor of Owensboro, brought a new urgency to pension reform by calling it the General Assembly's No. 1 priority in its upcoming session.
Adkisson said it's the state's $30 billion-plus underfunded pension liability that has caused the concern with the Federal Reserve board.
Among the eight states — Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, California, Indiana — cited in the Federal Reserve's report, Kentucky's 54 percent was the second lowest to Illinois' 45 percent when it came to adequately funding public sector pensions.
For nearly 10 years, lawmakers in this state have refused to address the problem, which has resulted in this massive pension fund liability that will only become harder to overcome if allowed to continue at this alarming rate.
However, the state has established the Public Pensions Task Force, and its job is to come up with viable recommendations to reduce the shortfall.
At stake here are the future retirement plans of the thousands of state government workers, teachers and local government employees.
An attempt was made in 2011 with House Bill 480 to create a system where new public hires would no longer receive defined retirement benefits. Instead, employees would contribute to a system similar to 401(k) programs in the private sector, and those contributions would be matched by state government.
According to Adkisson, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce supports a defined contribution plan for new public employees.
But he acknowledged that pension reform is one of those "tough issues" that has to be hashed out before it falls into the lap of the General Assembly in January.
The Public Pensions Task Force has a Dec. 7 deadline to present its recommendations regarding pension reform.
"It's not a Democrat-Republican issue. It's simply the math," Adkisson said.
The General Assembly should listen hard to Adkisson.
Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader on narrow, self-interest, political conventions:
Political conventions are scripted low-risk theater, so ideological platitudes and boilerplate appeals to party loyalty are to be expected.
Still, it's disheartening, listening to the GOP in Tampa, to hear speaker after speaker demean government itself, even as they seek to become part of it.
The "we built it" mind-set, was the theme of the Aug. 28 festivities, with obligatory and incessant twisting and mocking of President Barack Obama's recent comment that business owners should acknowledge the partnership role of government in allowing private enterprise to be creative and prosper.
The president's clear reference to government schools, infrastructure and even to the founding of the republic itself, is lost in a red-meat appeal to mythic individualism.
Such references dovetail nicely with another Tampa staple, invoking fond memories of Ronald Reagan's famous question: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"
It may make compelling short-term politics, but most voters recognize, as surely Mitt Romney must, that a careful balance of government support and, yes, regulation, creates a level playing field and protects the public interest. Businesses seek predictability and stability, not a Wild West unregulated market. Anyone who followed the banking crisis — the roots of which have yet to be addressed — surely agrees.
Instead of a cynical appeal to narrow self-interest, Americans might do better to remember the somewhat more challenging words of John F. Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Then we might all be better off four, 10, even 50 years from now.
The Courier-Herald, Louisville, Ky., on the state's drug-addicted newborns:
"They are just agitated. They are screaming. Their faces — you have the grimace. They're in pain . . . Sometimes the babies have seizures."
This is a nurse describing what infants look and act like when they are born addicted to drugs.
They are the newest and youngest victims of Kentucky's prescription pill epidemic and the number of such infants is growing at an alarming rate, according to a report by Laura Ungar in the Courier-Journal.
Prescription pill abuse is a scourge that kills nearly 1,000 people a year in this state. Now we learn 730 Kentucky infants were hospitalized last year addicted to drugs, compared to 29 such cases in 2000, and officials blame prescription pill abuse for the skyrocketing numbers.
Audrey Tayse Haynes, secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, describing it as a "silent epidemic," is sounding the alarm.
"Stop the madness," she said. "This is too much."
Haynes is absolutely correct. But it will take much more than rhetoric to address the deep roots of a problem that has been growing for more than a decade as the state has continued to starve its mental health and substance abuse services and slashed funding for other important social services that help steer people out of drug and alcohol abuse. ...
Clearly the way to stop infants from being born addicted to drugs is stop pregnant women from drug abuse and addiction. But Kentucky offers only limited services (both public and private) and is poorly equipped to deal with the demand ...
Yet services remain scarce in Kentucky.
The state currently has 36 licensed or certified centers that serve pregnant or postpartum women, but advocates say that's not nearly enough. ...
Kentucky must devise a comprehensive plan to reach much further into the state's addiction problem, before young people become dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Mental health and drug and alcohol abuse are intertwined. Yet the state's system of community mental health centers — the front line in treating mental illness and addiction — has scraped by for more than a decade with no increase in state funds and soaring demand for services. ...
Haynes said she is trying to pull together public health and other officials to address this problem in a major way. We hope she and others involved appreciate the urgency and come up with a comprehensive plan to attack the problem that is now threatening the lives of the state's youngest citizens.