Thanks again, Gov. Motormouth

By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Ask any of Matt Bevin's many detractors. The governor's motormouth is the gift that keeps on giving.

A ton of teachers can't wait to retire a slew of Republicans from the General Assembly on Nov. 6. Hence, the GOP gov would be wise to pour oil on troubled political waters.

Instead, Bevin went on a Bowling Green talk radio show Monday and, for the umpteenth time, trashed the more than 42,000-strong Kentucky Education Association. In western Kentucky, we call that "letting your mouth overload your posterior." Okay, we use a rude three-letter word instead of "posterior." 

"Bevin said on WKCT Radio...that his budget proposals have fully funded Kentucky’s pension systems but that his efforts to save the pensions have been muddled by the teachers’ union,” Tom Loftus wrote in the Louisville Courier-Journal.

During the last legislative session, thousands of KEA members--teachers and classified school employees--flocked to Frankfort to protest the GOP pension plans. “Vote them out!" and "Remember in November!”  the throngs chanted. 

Loftus quoted the governor: “...The KEA foments discord. They want so badly for people to think somehow we’re the problem. We’re the only ones funding this pension system. But the KEA is a dying organization. They’re about power. They’re about control. They’re about using their membership dues for their own self-interest. And they are not serving teachers well. They’re not serving the students well or their parents, that’s for sure. People need to disregard the noise machine from the KEA and focus on what’s best for the individual classrooms, for the teachers and the students, for the local business community and for the taxpayers that are paying for all of it.”

I can almost hear the whooping and hollering and see the high-fiving at KEA HQ down Capital Avenue from Bevin's office.

Anyway, Loftus sought a response from KEA President Stephanie Winkler. Unlike Bevin, she skipped the ad hominems, kept calm and carried on.

Loftus quoted her statement in part: "It’s true that the last two state budgets approved by the legislature funded the pension system.  But remember, the Governor vetoed the 2018-2020 budget, which included the pension funding appropriations for which he’s now taking credit. The provisions of his ironically titled ‘Keeping the Promise’ proposal from last fall and SB1(2018) speak for themselves; KEA didn’t create those documents, the Governor and legislators sympathetic to his cause did. Those proposals created the ‘discord’ to which he refers. All state employees, including educators, are also taxpayers.  Every participant in any of Kentucky’s public pension systems pays twice: once as a direct, personal mandatory contribution to their individual account and again as a taxpayer ...  So yes, KEA and other advocacy groups believe state employees and public school educator voices should be heard on policy issues that will affect the pension benefits they earn and pay for."

Bevin never misses a chance to rip KEA and other unions. But when he ranted on the radio, he might have still been steamed over the October Morning Consult tracking poll. If it was on the money, Bevin is still about as popular as a wet dog at a wedding.

The survey, which comes out quarterly, again ranked him 46th in public esteem among the country’s 50 governors. 

No matter, the governor is going for a second term, but he won't have to face the voters until next year.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are confident they'll take a big bite out of those hefty GOP majorities in both chambers of the legislature. 

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins is downright bullish.

"With two weeks to go, I’m the most optimistic I’ve ever been about our chances to re-take the Kentucky House," said the Sandy Hook Democrat, who seems likely to run for governor himself.

"I have criss-crossed the state multiple times and have seen crowds for our candidates like I’ve never seen. Many voters said they would ‘remember in November,’ and by all accounts, they look ready to make that vow come true.”

The smooth move for Bevin would have been to lay off the KEA, batten down the hatches and do all he could to dissipate the storm that brewed over Republican noggins in Frankfort last winter and spring. 

There is ample evidence that the thunderheads have since spread over the state from Paducah to Pikeville. Doubtless, the clouds will thicken as word of Bevin's radio wig-flipping spreads. 

"Good 'ole Matt Bevin, trying to show that Yankee 'grit,' tossed a Molotov cocktail at teachers and other government employees, current and retired--let's toss it back," said Calloway County Retired Teachers Association President Marshall Ward when he heard what the governor said. 

A KEA retiree who drove 228 miles from Murray to rally in Frankfort, Ward suggested that by inserting "'Matt Bevin' where KEA is mentioned in his interview, it would go something like this:

"Matt Bevin is about power. Matt Bevin is about control. Matt Bevin is using taxpayer dollars for his own self-interest. Matt Bevin is not serving the citizens well. People need to disregard the Matt Bevin noise machine and focus on what’s best for teachers, police officers, fire fighters,  first responders, local and state government workers and those businesses that had a tax slapped on their goods or services [in the Republican-passed tax bill]."

If I were the KEA prez (I'm a KEA and AFT retiree), I’d mail him a thank-you card. If the Democrats, boosted by KEA member ballots, do well on Nov. 6, I’d present him a nice Most Valuable Player plaque.