Matt Bevin

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL

Kentucky Medicaid beneficiaries and other welfare recipients will apply for services using a new website called Benefind starting Feb. 29.

Medicaid recipients previously applied for benefits using Kynect, the state health exchange that Gov. Matt Bevin has promised to dismantle by the end of the year.

Health and Human Services Cabinet Vickie Yates Glisson said the plan does away with the paper-version of the application — the program will be entirely online.

“Whether you live in any of our 120 counties, there should be access to a computer system that you will be able to come in and access these programs,” Glisson said.

The new program will also serve as an application hub for other state health, food and cash assistance programs, replacing the Kentucky Automated Management Eligibility System.

Bevin's Proposed Cuts Include Funding for Watchdog Agency

Feb 14, 2016
Ryland Barton, WKU Public Radio

As part of his proposed budget cuts, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin exempted what he considered to be key government services. Those not protected include agencies charged with holding him and his administration accountable.

Katie Gabhart, the executive director of the Executive Branch Ethics Commission, said the proposed 4.5 percent budget cut this year and the 9 percent cut over the next two years will devastate the agency. She said it would force her to lay off the agency's sole investigator and auditor, two employees who already work part time.

"We will be an investigative and auditing agency with no investigator and auditor," Gabhart told House lawmakers this week. "Public servants are going to violate the ethics code ... and if they know we have an ethics commission with so few resources that we can't enforce the code, then what is the point of having one?"

The cuts also include the Registry of Election Finance, the agency that makes sure politicians follow the rules when they raise and spend money for their campaigns. Executive Director John Steffen said the agency could not sustain a 9 percent cut and would not be able to hire an auditor. In response, House lawmakers suggested changing state law so fewer candidates would have to file disclosure reports.

J. Tyler Franklin, WFPL News

In one of his first community meetings since taking office, Gov. Matt Bevin spoke Friday with residents in Hazard about the decline of the coal industry and the area’s economic depression.

Kentucky has lost more than 11,000 coal industry jobs since 2009, and the Eastern Kentucky coalfields have been the hardest hit. Numerous factors have contributed to the decline: competition from natural gas, environmental regulations and rising production costs. But for the past eight years, many Kentucky politicians have placed the blame solely on President Barack Obama and his environmental policies.

Bevin largely stayed away from using the “war on coal” rhetoric* during his community meeting in Hazard, though he did include several pointed mentions of EPA “overreach” and blamed Obama for the region’s woes.

“The EPA and this current presidential administration have absolutely gutted coal,” Bevin said. “Our current president said he was going to bankrupt the coal industry, and boy has he worked his hardest to make sure he’s done exactly that. I tell you, the fall of 2016 can’t come soon enough as far as I’m concerned.”

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s efforts to reshape the state’s approach to the Affordable Care Act have led to a political battle of governors unprecedented in recent state history.

On Thursday, former Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, launched a political nonprofit organization to advocate for key policies implemented by his administration, which ended in December. Those policies included an expansion of Medicaid and the creation of a state health insurance exchange, called Kynect.

Both policies are being threatened by Bevin’s administration, which is seeking to add new stipulations to Medicaid enrollment and to dismantle Kynect, instead sending Kentuckians to the federal health care exchange.

Beshear’s new group is called Save Kentucky Healthcare, a 501c(4) organization.

“Save Kentucky Healthcare is committed to continuing Kentucky’s dramatic success in expanding health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Now, why? Because it’s working,” Beshear said during a news conference Thursday in Louisville.

Gage Skidmore via Flickr Creative Commons

Former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear says he is starting an advocacy group to oppose Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s plans to dismantle the state’s health insurance exchange, Kynect, and scale back its Medicaid expansion.

Beshear is scheduled to announce “Save Kentucky Healthcare” during events in Louisville and Lexington on Thursday. In a news release, Beshear said he is troubled by Bevin’s plans to roll back what he called Kentucky’s nation-leading progress in improving the health of its people.

Beshear left office in December. During his eight years in office, he expanded Kentucky’s Medicaid program and created a state-operated health insurance exchange where eligible Kentuckians could purchase discounted private health insurance plans. He did so under the Affordable Care Act.

Bevin criticized both programs as too expensive. He says he will dismantle Kynect by the end of the year and is trying to replace the Medicaid expansion with a different program.

Bevin Wants to Downsize Scope of KentuckyWired Project

Feb 6, 2016
Jacob Ryan, WFPL

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin wants to downsize a proposed 3,400-mile fiber optic network meant to make high-speed Internet possible throughout the state.

Bevin told the Saving Our Appalachian Region meeting Friday the project is off track. He said he still supports installing the network in eastern Kentucky.

A group of private businesses borrowed $289 million last year to begin constructing the network. Kentucky  government officials promised to pay the companies about $28 million a year for Internet service, which the companies would then use to pay off the loan.

But a key piece of how Kentucky  planned to pay back the loan has fallen apart. Bevin said Friday he wants to try and renegotiate with Macquarie Capital, the Australian-based investment company that is leading the project.

WKU

In an e-mail to faculty and staff late Wednesday afternoon, WKU President Gary Ransdell said Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget cuts to higher education present a substantial challenge to the university.

Bevin's proposal calls for a 4.5 percent budget cut this fiscal year. That translates to $3.3 million out of WKU's budget by the end of June. Nine percent reductions would go into effect after that.

"There are many details of this plan that are yet to be understood, and with regard to performance funding, those details have yet to be defined," Ransdell said in his message. "So we are a long way from fully knowing how WKU will be impacted by these proposals.  I am confident, however, that WKU will fare well in any measure that is outcome or performance based.

Ransdell says the budget contains at least one bright spot for WKU. Gov. Bevin's budget proposal contains an equity funding appropriation for both WKU and Northern Kentucky University. Ransdell says the appropriation would held "level the playing field for our students who are paying a disproportionate share of their education in comparison to students at other Kentucky universities."

Kentucky State Government

Kentucky environmental advocates are worried that budget reductions called for by Gov. Matt Bevin will make it impossible for the Energy and Environment Cabinet to perform its basic functions.

In his first budget proposal since taking office last month, Bevin on Tuesday called for across-the-board 9 percent budget reductions to most state agencies.

From 2012-2016, the cabinet has already seen its budget reduced by nearly 16 percent, and has implemented those cuts in various departments.

The cabinet’s responsibilities include implementing and enforcing federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, plus mine safety, surface mine permitting and reclamation, forestry, oil and gas regulation and preserving Kentucky’s wild areas.

What specific state agencies would be cut, and by how much, would be up to cabinet secretaries, Bevin said on Tuesday.

Rob Canning, WKMS

Gov. Matt Bevin has proposed 9 percent cuts to most state government agencies over the next two years in an effort to reduce state spending by $650 million.

Bevin proposed his first budget on Tuesday evening in an address to the Kentucky General Assembly, which will use much of the 2016 session to forge a state spending plan based, at least in part, on Bevin’s proposal.

Bevin, a Republican, entered office last month promising to put Kentucky’s “financial house in order.” His Democratic predecessor, Steve Beshear, offered an optimistic outlook of Kentucky’s fiscal shape before he left office. But Bevin has taken a dimmer view, citing underfunded pension systems and a $250 million payment for expanded Medicaid.

Bevin said Tuesday he would also issue an executive order to cut state spending by 4.5 percent across the board during the current fiscal year, which ends in June.

During a meeting with reporters Tuesday before his formal budget address, Bevin said individual cabinet secretaries would responsible for cutting the budgets of state agencies they oversee.

WFPL News

Gov. Matt Bevin unveils his proposal Tuesday night for how Kentucky state government should spend a little more than $20 billion over the next two years.

The much-anticipated budget address will provide a granular glimpse into the new governor’s priorities and just how he plans to put the state’s “financial house in order,” as he’s promised.

Last month, Bevin became only the second Republican governor of Kentucky in more than 40 years, and his stances during last year’s campaign pointed to a strong preference for fiscal thriftiness.

Kentucky’s revenues are growing — the state is estimated to rake in about $900,000 more over the next two years.

But so are costs.

WFPL News

A day after declaring a state of emergency due to a winter storm, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin was in New Hampshire to speak at a Republican forum.

Media reports say Bevin was guest speaker at a Saturday luncheon during the New Hampshire GOP's "First in the Nation Presidential Town Hall." Bevin, who took office last month, grew up in the Granite State.

His administration defended his decision to leave Kentucky while it was under a state of emergency.

His spokeswoman, Jessica Ditto, says the governor has been "directly involved in the management of this snow storm."

She says Bevin decided the weather situation was well-in-hand and that he would honor his commitment to speak in New Hampshire. She says the governor also was meeting with companies interested in Kentucky.

WFPL News

When Gov. Matt Bevin offers his first state budget proposal on Tuesday, it’s unclear how much money — if any — will be set aside for the Kentucky Arts Council, which just celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Rumors have swirled on social media and in arts social circles during the past couple days concerning the future of the state agency.

Arts Council board member Wilma Brown of Frankfort sent an email to friends and supporters on Thursday, saying Bevin would seek to eliminate funding for the agency and asking recipients to contact their state representatives in protest.

“It is not clear whether an alternative agency will be formed or whether the arts will be folded into another agency,” Brown wrote. “In either case, oversight of the arts will become political with changes in personnel and programs with each election.”

Requests for information from Bevin’s office went unanswered. Lori Meadows, the Arts Council’s executive director, directed inquiries to the governor’s office.

Tennessee Valley Authority

On Thursday, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announced his administration would seek an extension to comply with upcoming federal carbon dioxide regulations from power plans.

On the face of it, this isn’t surprising. Without an extension, the deadline to decide how Kentucky will reduce emissions is fast-approaching. It makes sense that the state would seek as much time as possible.

But piecing together the statement released by Bevin’s office and a brief interview I did with the Energy and Environment Cabinet raises more questions. While state regulators plan to ask the Environmental Protection Agency for two more years to consider their options, they seem opposed to every option that actually involves reducing the state’s carbon dioxide emissions.

The Clean Power Plan is calling for steep cuts in emissions from power plants. To do this, states have two options: Create a state plan or follow the federal plan.

There’s a third option Kentucky regulators are hoping for, which is that the judicial system overturns the regulation, and the EPA is forced to go back to the drawing board and spend years reformulating the regulations.

WFPL News

Less than a week before Gov. Matt Bevin gives his formal state budget proposal, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, Bevin’s ally, gave an ominous prediction.

“I think this budget that will be introduced and proposed by the executive branch will be one of the most austere budgets that I’ve seen in my 20 years in the General Assembly,” Stivers said Wednesday on the Senate floor.

Bevin, a Republican, suggested just as much when he was campaigning, saying that the state would have to undergo “belt-tightening across the board” during a debate on KET.

At issue are mounting obligations in the state pension systems and Medicaid program. The Kentucky Teacher Retirement Systems has requested about $1 billion in additional contributions from the state to meet its obligations to retirees. Meanwhile, the state will have to start paying an increased share of a Medicaid program that was expanded and now covers an additional 400,000 Kentuckians. That’s expected to cost $250 million in 2017.

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo took a slightly more optimistic position, saying that the state is predicted to rake in more revenue over the next two years.

WFPL News

Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has notified the federal government that Kentucky will dismantle its state health insurance exchange, Kynect.

The move will direct Kentuckians seeking health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, to use the federal health insurance site, healthcare.gov.

More than 500,000 people have gotten health insurance through Kynect.

In a statement from the governor’s office, Bevin spokeswoman Jessica Ditto called the program a “redundancy.”

“The transition will have no impact on Kentuckians’ ability to obtain or continue health care coverage for the 2016 plan year,” Ditto said.

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