Speech, Friday, November 22, 1996

Kentucky Association of County Officials

WEDNESDAY WE UNVEILED THE FIRST REALLY MAJOR INITIATIVE OF OUR ADMINISTRATION. AND THAT IS TO TRY TO DO, WHAT WE BELIEVE, WILL DRAMATICALLY IMPROVE THE ECONOMY OF THIS STATE. IT'S ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE HAVE TO DO IF WE ARE GOING TO MOVE THIS STATE AHEAD. THAT IS GET OUR WORKERS' COMPENSATION PROGRAM STRAIGHTENED OUT.

THAT'S NOT THE ONLY THING BUT THAT'S ONE OF THE THINGS. I GUESS IF WE COULD SUMMARIZE WHAT IT IS THAT WE HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN THE BIG PICTURE OVER THE FOUR, OR MORE LIKELY EIGHT YEARS, IT WOULD TAKE TO DO THIS, IF WE HAVE THAT OPPORTUNITY, IS TO LAY THE FOUNDATION TO REALLY MAKE MAJOR DRAMATIC CHANGE IN KENTUCKY.

THAT'S NOT GOING TO SHOW UP IN FOUR OR EIGHT YEARS BUT WHAT WE ARE TRYING TO DO IS FIGURE OUT WHAT WE NEED TO DO TO GET KENTUCKY OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS. TO MAKE UP FOR THE MISTAKES OF THE PAST AND GIVE US A CHANCE TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A KENTUCKY THAT IS EQUAL TO ALL THE REST OF THE NATION IN BASIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE AND BASIC QUALITY OF LIFE.

I BELIEVE IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE TO DO THAT IN TWENTY YEARS IF WE HAD THE POLITICAL WILL TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT. LET ME REPHRASE THAT- I KNOW THAT IF WE HAD THE POLITICAL WILL TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT, SUSTAIN THAT EFFORT FOR TWENTY YEARS, THAT WOULD, COULD BRING KENTUCKY EDUCATIONALLY, INDUSTRIALLY AND ECONOMICALLY, QUALITY-OF-LIFE WISE, EQUAL TO THE REST OF THE NATION.

SO THEN THE REAL QUESTION IS JUST - DO WE HAVE THE WILL? WE HAVE TO KNOW WHAT TO DO AND SOMETIMES THAT'S NOT REALLY CLEAR. AND WE HAVE TO, MORE THAN ANYTHING, HAVE THE WILL TO DO IT. AND WHATEVER IT IS THAT WE HAVE TO DO TO LAY THAT FOUNDATION IS GOING TO BE DIFFICULT. IF IT WERE OBVIOUS AND EASY IT WOULD HAVE ALREADY BEEN DONE.

WHATEVER WE DO IS GOING TO DISRUPT SOME SPECIAL INTEREST, BY DEFINITION, THAT IS WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. SO THE QUESTION IS THAT, DO WE THE PEOPLE, THROUGH OUR GOVERNMENT, HAVE THE ABILITY TO DO WHAT'S RIGHT AND TAKE THE HEAT AND MAKE THOSE CHANGES?

I CAN TELL YOU, I THINK HAVING WORKED WITH MOST OF YOU ELECTED OFFICIALS , MOST OF YOU ALL HAVE THAT KIND OF COURAGE. MOST OF YOU I'VE WORKED WITH ARE WILLING.

IT IS THE KIND OF ATTITUDE WE TOOK AS PIKE COUNTY JUDGE FOURTEEN YEARS AGO. AND PEOPLE HAD SORT OF TALKED ABOUT ME RUNNING FOR GOVERNOR ONE TIME AND I HAD ALREADY ENTERTAINED THAT IDEA. BUT I WANTED TO TRY TO BE COUNTY JUDGE AND HOLD THAT OFFICE FOR SIX YEARS AND I'M GOING TO TRY TO BE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR AND HOLD THAT OFFICE FOUR YEARS AND I'M GOING TO TRY TO BE GOVERNOR IN 91. I WANTED TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE, I WANTED TO HAVE THE POLITICAL BACKGROUND AND I WANTED TO HAVE THE FRIENDS LIKE YOU TO HELP ME. OF COURSE I ALWAYS SAID BRERETON JONES GAVE ME ABOUT FOUR MORE YEARS THAN I THOUGHT I NEEDED, BUT I USED THAT EXPERIENCE WELL, AND I AT LEAST GOT THERE. BUT IN 1982 , I BECAME COUNTY JUDGE, AND I SAID FOLKS, WE HAVE TO CLEAN THIS COUNTY UP, WE NEED MANDATORY GARBAGE COLLECTION. WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO FORCE PEOPLE TO PAY A GARBAGE BILL.

WELL MY FRIENDS SAID, "SON, DON'T WORRY ABOUT BEING ELECTED GOVERNOR, YOU WON'T EVEN GET REELECTED COUNTY JUDGE. YOU AIN'T GOT NO PROBLEM THERE." AND I SAID, "I'M NOT GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT TEN YEARS OF MY LIFE DOING NOTHING, JUST TRYING TO BE ELECTED GOVERNOR. I'M GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT TEN YEARS OF MY LIFE DOING SOMETHING THAT IS MEANINGFUL AND IF I AM SUCCESSFUL, THEN MAYBE THE PEOPLE WILL ELECT ME GOVERNOR, BUT THAT'S NOT MY MAIN OBJECTIVE. I'M GOING TO DO SOMETHING FOR THE BENEFIT OF THIS COUNTY AND IF I GET BEAT, I'M BEAT. I CAN GO HOME AND DO SOMETHING ELSE."

BY WORKING WITH THE LEADERS AND WORKING WITH THE PEOPLE AND CONVINCING THE FISCAL COURT AND TRYING TO GIVE THEM A LITTLE BIT OF COURAGE TO STAND UP AND UNDERSTAND 1. IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO AND OUR PEOPLE WERE SMART ENOUGH TO KNOW WHAT WAS RIGHT, 2. IT WOULDN'T GET THEM BEAT 3. IF IT DID GET THEM BEAT IT WASN'T THE END OF THE WORLD.

AFTER ABOUT SIX MONTHS WE PASSED THAT BILL. AND BOY WHEN WE STARTED SENDING OUT GARBAGE BILLS DID WE GET THE ATTENTION. I MEAN TO TELL YOU WE HAD PEOPLE COMING TO THE FISCAL COURT MEETING. THEY CALLED US COMMUNISTS, DICTATORS, AND THEY GOT UP BEFORE US AND VOWED TO WORK TWICE AS HARD TO BEAT US AS THEY WORKED TO ELECT US.

PRETTY TOUGH, PRETTY LONELY. SITTING IN A FISCAL COURT ALMOST HALF AS BIG AS THIS ROOM AND IT DOESN'T LOOK LIKE A FRIEND OUT THERE. ALL THOSE PEOPLE THAT SAID "OH WE'RE GOING TO DO THIS" THEY WERE REAL FAR IN THE BACK. BUT WE MADE IT WORK. LET ME GUARANTEE YOU, THAT TWO YEARS AFTER I TOOK OFFICE, IF THERE HAD BEEN A GENERAL ELECTION FOR COUNTY JUDGE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN PATTON- YES OR NO- AND THE ANSWER WOULD HAVE BEEN NO. IT WOULDN'T HAVE MADE ANY DIFFERENCE WHO MY OPPONENT WAS.

BUT AFTER THREE YEARS, AFTER IT BEGAN TO WORK, AFTER THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY DIDN'T WANT TO LIVE IN FILTH AND WERE WILLING TO PAY A GARBAGE BILL, BUT FELT LIKE THEY WOULD STILL LIVE IN SOMEBODY ELSE'S FILTH, BEGAN TO SEE THAT IT CLEANED THAT COUNTY UP. THEY SAID IT WAS THE RIGHT THING TO DO. WE WON THAT ELECTION. AND ON THAT I BUILT MY REPUTATION AS A STATEWIDE LEADER AND EVENTUALLY BECAME GOVERNOR OF THIS COMMONWEALTH.

WELL I HAVE ABOUT THE SAME THING FACING ME NOW. YOU KNOW THAT I'M FROM THE COAL PRODUCING PART OF THE STATE. YOU KNOW, I HOPE YOU KNOW, THAT I AM NOT BEING PREJUDICED TOWARD EASTERN KENTUCKY OR THE COAL INDUSTRY. I HOPE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND THAT WE CAN'T REACH THAT GOAL AS LONG AS WE HAVE THE ANCHOR OF EASTERN KENTUCKY DRAGGING OUR STATE DOWN. WHAT THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY DECIDED AND GOVERNOR JONES DECIDED FOUR YEARS AGO, WHEN THEY SAID WE MUST DEVOTE A MAJOR PORTION OF THIS COAL SEVERANCE TAX BACK TO EASTERN KENTUCKY SO THAT THEY CAN BUILD THEIR ECONOMY, THEY DIDN'T DO IT FOR EASTERN KENTUCKY. THEY DID IT FOR ALL OF KENTUCKY. THE RECOGNITION THAT UNTIL WE DO THAT WE CAN'T BRING THE REST OF THIS STATE UP. AND I HOLD THAT OPINION VERY STRONGLY.

AND IF I CAN'T DO, IF I, FROM EASTERN KENTUCKY DON'T KNOW HOW TO DO IT. IF I, FROM EASTERN KENTUCKY DON'T HAVE THE COURAGE, THEN IT WON'T BE DONE. AND KENTUCKY WILL NEVER, NEVER REACH THE NATIONAL AVERAGE, AS LONG AS EASTERN KENTUCKY IS THE ANCHOR.

AND SO I SPENT A YEAR, I KNOW WE HAVE A PROBLEM, IN COAL YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE A GENIUS TO FIGURE THAT OUT. AFTER THEY CHANGED THE LAW IN '94 ON WORKERS' COMPENSATION, SOME OF THE BUSINESSES AROUND THE STATE HAVE GOTTEN A GREAT CUT. WE CAN'T FIGURE OUT WHY SOME BUSINESSES ARE UP AND SOME ARE DOWN.

BUT WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO COAL. WE KNOW THAT WE TOOK THE SUBSIDY THAT COAL WAS RECEIVING AND TOOK HALF OF IT AWAY AND PUT THAT BURDEN ON IT. AND WE KNOW THAT COAL WENT UP ABOUT 80% AND WE KNOW THAT COAL PRODUCTION IS GOING DOWN AND WE KNOW THAT COAL COMPANIES ARE CLOSING AND WE KNOW THAT MORE PEOPLE ARE FILING WORKERS' COMP TO MAKE THE SITUATION EVEN WORSE.

AND WE KNEW THAT BACK IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY. AND I PROPOSED A BILL TO ADDRESS SOME OF THOSE PROBLEMS. AND THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TURNED IT DOWN. THEY SAID NO, OR AT LEAST THE MESSAGE I GOT WAS, NO, WE'RE NOT GOING TO ADDRESS JUST THE PROBLEMS OF COAL BECAUSE WE BELIEVE EVERYBODY IN KENTUCKY, EVERY BUSINESS IN KENTUCKY HAS A PROBLEM AND THAT ADVERSELY EFFECTS POTENTIALLY EVERY WORKER AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO DO THIS PIECEMEAL. LET'S DO IT RIGHT. LET'S HELP EVERYBODY. FOR ONCE AND FOR ALL LET US DO IT RIGHT AND LET'S GET RID OF THIS PROBLEM THAT COMES BACK EVERY YEAR AFTER YEAR- AND IT'S WORKERS' COMP.

SO I BEGAN TO DO IT. I HAVE SPENT AS MUCH TIME, I HAVE WORKED AS LONG, AS HARD, I HAVE LISTENED TO AS MANY PEOPLE, I HAVE STUDIED AS MANY DOCUMENTS, AS ANY POSSIBLE PERSON COULD POSSIBLY DO. AND I HAVE COME TO SOME INESCAPABLE CONCLUSIONS. YES, WE DO HAVE A PROBLEM. IT IS HURTING MOST BUSINESSES IN KENTUCKY, IT IS COSTING THEM SALES AND PROFITS. AND WHEN COMPANIES LOSE SALES THEY CUT OFF WORKERS OR THEY CUT WORKERS WAGES. SO YES IT IS COSTING PEOPLE IN KENTUCKY JOBS AND YES IT IS CAUSING PEOPLE IN KENTUCKY TO EARN LESS THAN WHAT THEY OTHERWISE WOULD. WE NEED TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THAT.

BUT IN COAL WE HAVE A CRISIS. NO DOUBT IN MY MIND, IF WE DO NOTHING OUR COAL PRODUCTION HAS GONE DOWN 13% IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS ALREADY. AND NO DOUBT IN MY MIND THAT IF WE SIT BY AND DO NOTHING, THE COAL INDUSTRY WILL BE A SHADOW OF ITSELF IN VERY, VERY SHORT YEARS. WE'LL HAVE SOCIAL PROBLEMS IN THIS STATE, AND WE'LL HAVE REVENUE PROBLEMS IN THIS STATE WE NEVER IMAGINED. SO I HAVE PROPOSED AND WORKED WITH THE OFFICIAL GROUP ESTABLISHED BY THE LEGISLATURE AND THE WORKERS' COMP ADVISORY COUNCIL , COMPOSED OF EIGHT PEOPLE THAT SORT OF REPRESENT BUSINESS AROUND THE STATE AND EIGHT PEOPLE THAT REPRESENT LABOR UNIONS AROUND THE STATE AND THE WORKING PEOPLE. AND I'VE WORKED WITH THEM ALL YEAR. ALL LAST WEEK, AND THEY KNEW EXACTLY THE THEORY OF WHAT I'M PROPOSING. AND WE WORKED FRIDAY NIGHT, SATURDAY, AND THEN MONDAY MORNING WHEN WE WERE GETTING READY TO PUT THE FINAL TOUCHES ON THAT BILL, SOMETHING HAPPENED.

THE LABOR MEMBERS OF THAT GROUP, MY FRIENDS, PEOPLE, AMONG WHOM THOSE WITHOUT I COULD NOT HAVE WON THE GOVERNORSHIP, CHANGED. I DIDN'T CHANGE, MY PROPOSAL DIDN'T CHANGE, WHAT I HAD BEEN SAYING DIDN'T CHANGE. MY FRIENDS CHANGED. THEY ARE NOW FIGHTING ME.

CERTAINLY WEDNESDAY MORNING WAS THE WORST DAY I HAVE HAD AS GOVERNOR OF THIS COMMONWEALTH. BECAUSE MY FRIENDS CAME INTO MY OFFICE AND TOLD ME THAT I HAD BETRAYED THEM. IN MY OPINION, THE LEADERS ARE BETRAYING THE PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSE TO BE LEADING - THE WORKERS.

THEY TOLD ME THEY WOULD WORK AS HARD, NO TWICE AS HARD TO BEAT ME AS TO ELECT ME. AND I TOLD THEM THAT'S FINE. I HAVE NEVER BEEN INTIMIDATED BY THREATS BEFORE IN MY LIFE. AND I WON'T BE NOW. I TOLD THEM YOU CONVINCE ME WHERE THIS IS WRONG FOR THE WORKERS OF THIS STATE AND I WILL PROPOSE TO CHANGE IT. BUT DON'T TRY TO THREATEN TO BEAT ME.

BECAUSE THIS JOB, WINNING THIS JOB AGAIN, IS NOT MY MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IN LIFE. MY MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IS TO USE THESE FOUR YEARS YOU'VE GIVEN ME TO TRY TO MAKE A FUNDAMENTAL DIFFERENCE. AND IF I CAN DO THAT AND THEN IF YOU WANT ME TO LEAD THE STATE FOR ANOTHER FOUR YEARS, IF MY HEALTH ALLOWS ME, THEN I'LL DO THAT.

BUT THAT'S NOT THE WAY WE ARE GOING TO RUN THESE FOUR YEARS. WE'RE GOING TO DO RIGHT AS GOD GIVES US THE VISION TO SEE WHAT'S RIGHT. THEN WE'RE GOING TO TRUST THE PEOPLE OF KENTUCKY, WHETHER OR NOT THEY THINK WE DESERVE ANOTHER FOUR YEARS.

SO AS WE GO ABOUT THIS DEBATE, AND I THINK IT'S GOING TO BE HARD, I THINK IT WILL BE PERHAPS THE MOST BITTER DEBATE THAT WE HAVE SEEN IN OUR GENERAL ASSEMBLY SINCE I HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING IT. BECAUSE IT DOES PERSONALLY EFFECT PEOPLE WITHIN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY. BECAUSE THE LEADERS OF LABOR OBVIOUSLY TAKE THE TACTIC THAT THEIR FRIEND HAS TURNED AGAINST THEM, THEY ARE GOING TO USE EVERYTHING THEY CAN TO MAKE IT LOOK LIKE I'VE TURNED AGAINST THE WORKING PEOPLE OF THIS STATE THAT HAVE SO MUCH CONFIDENCE IN ME AND YES, HELPED ME GET ELECTED GOVERNOR.

THEY MAY BE SUCCESSFUL IN DOING THAT, BUT LET ME TELL YOU I AM DOING WHAT I BELIEVE WITH ALL OF MY HEART IS GOOD FOR THE WORKERS OF THIS STATE. AND ONE OF THE THINGS THE WORKERS OF THIS STATE HAVE TO HAVE IS A COMPANY THAT'S NOT BANKRUPT TO WRITE THEM A CHECK AT THE END OF THE WEEK OR THE END OF THE MONTH. WE'RE NOT RUNNING THIS STATE SO THAT WE WILL HAVE PROFITABLE COMPANIES. WE'RE RUNNING THIS STATE SO THAT WE WILL HAVE GOOD JOBS FOR PEOPLE AND THAT REQUIRES THAT WE HAVE PROFITABLE COMPANIES. SO AS YOU CAN SEE I FEEL VERY STRONGLY ABOUT THIS ISSUE. I BELIEVE I'M RIGHT. I'M WILLING TO CHANGE WHERE PEOPLE CAN CONVINCE ME THAT I'M WRONG FOR ALL WORKING PEOPLE.

BUT I WILL NOT BUCKLE IN TO SPECIAL INTEREST. I WILL NOT BUCKLE IN TO FRIENDS WHO ARE AGAINST ME. I WILL DO WHAT I HAVE TRIED TO DO ALL PUBLIC CAREER AND WHAT I KNOW MOST OF YOU DO EVERYDAY. SAW NINA MOONEY EARLIER THIS WEEK DOWN THERE AT THE CLERK'S CONVENTION AND RECEIVED A LITTLE BIT OF ABUSE FOR DOING WHAT SHE THOUGHT WAS RIGHT. AND I ADMIRE YOU. AND THAT'S WHAT WE ALL DO EVERYDAY. BUT IT'S IMPORTANT. WE'RE MAKING A DIFFERENCE. THIS STATE IS BETTER OFF BECAUSE OF WHAT WE ARE DOING. IF YOU GET INTO THIS BUSINESS SO YOU THINK SOMEBODY IS GOING TO CALL YOU HERO, BETTER GET OUT REAL QUICK. WE DON'T HAVE HEROES IN PUBLIC OFFICE ANYMORE. THAT WAS 75 YEARS AGO, THAT WAS IN THE DAYS OF TEDDY ROOSEVELT. THAT'S NOT TODAY.

BUT IF YOU'RE IN THIS BUSINESS BECAUSE YOU LIKE TO GO HOME AT NIGHT AND SAY THAT YOU KNOW EVEN THOUGH NOBODY OUT THERE UNDERSTANDS IT, I MADE SOMEBODY'S LIFE BETTER TODAY. IF YOU CAN GO BACK TO PIKE COUNTY LIKE I CAN, AND SEE A BALL FIELD WHERE KIDS ARE HAVING A GOOD TIME AND LEARNING VALUES AND IF YOU CAN REALIZE THAT IF I WENT OUT THERE WITH A QUESTIONNAIRE AND SAID DID PAUL PATTON HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS BALL FIELD THAT VIRTUALLY EVERYBODY WOULD SAY, "NO, NO, NO HE DIDN'T HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH IT." BUT I WOULD KNOW THAT IF I HADN'T GIVEN TEN YEARS OF MY LIFE TO THE PEOPLE OF PIKE COUNTY THAT BALL FIELD WOULDN'T BE THERE OR THAT ROAD WOULDN'T BE THERE, OR THAT BRIDGE WOULDN'T BE THERE AND YOU KNOW. NOW IF THAT IS THE REASON THAT YOU'RE IN PUBLIC SERVICE, IF YOU LIKE TO SIT HOME AT NIGHT AND THINK ABOUT HOW YOU HELPED SOMEBODY YOU'LL GET YOUR REWARD OUT OF THAT. THEN YOU'RE DOING THE RIGHT THING. BUT IF YOU EXPECT TO REWARDED THEN YOU'RE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS.