FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andy Beshear is banging the gambling drum again in Kentucky.
He sent a two-page letter to lawmakers on Monday with a repeated call for expanded gaming as a way to fund the state’s ailing pension system.
Beshear, who made a similar plea in July when he announced his run for governor, faces an uphill battle in the General Assembly with one Republican lawmaker calling it “disappointing.”
Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Crofton, who chairs the Judiciary Committee where an expanded gaming bill could be assigned and who himself is running for attorney general in 2019, said in an interview he is strongly opposed.
“For the chief law enforcement officer of the commonwealth, or a governor, who should be focused almost exclusively on public safety and the well-being of Kentucky, for them to hitch their wagon to something as deceptively bad as gaming, I think is disappointing more than anything else,” he said.
Westerfield also accuses Beshear of riding on the coattails of his father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, who was a proponent of expanded gaming although he could never gain enough support to pass the measure in the General Assembly.
“He is following Dad’s lead on a lot of things,” Westerfield said.
Westerfield said he has read Beshear’s letter to lawmakers a couple times.
“It completely ignores the greater societal costs and the greater cost to the state’s General Fund, because of what’s going to happen to people who are exposed to even more gaming opportunities,” he said.
Westerfield said expanded gaming is not the solution to fund public pensions.
“It bothers me that someone running for governor, it bothers me that the sitting attorney general, would be OK with taking money from the poorest Kentuckians to fund public pensions. That’s not the way it should be.”
Beshear said in his letter that the state’s ailing pension system could receive a needed boost through expanded gaming by creating a dedicated revenue source.
“As attorney general, I took a stand on public pensions earlier this year after lawmakers turned an 11-page sewer bill into a 291-page pension bill and betrayed our state’s promise to our public servants,” Beshear said. “I ask lawmakers to create a dedicated source of revenue for pensions so we don’t have a pension battle each and every session.”