Fletcher giveth, Beshear taketh away

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By Ben Carlson

The only thing more outrageous than the state reneging on $300,000 in road funds for Anderson County is the way the money was awarded in the first place.

In yet another example of using tax dollars in a thinly veiled attempt to buy votes, Gov. Fletcher greased the skids for candidates just before last November's general election by providing millions in "discretionary" funds to repair roads across the state.

Anderson County received a slice of Ernie's pork, but the attached fat came in the form of a mandate to use it where the state, not local officials, said it should be used. Folks who live on the county's worst road, Enterprise, didn't get a sniff.

No surprise there. Months earlier, the transportation cabinet ignored Enterprise Road and opted to pave and replace a bridge on Otis Franklin Road, a decent road with nary a pothole but home to, you guessed it, a person who works in the transportation cabinet.

Enter Steve "The Gambler" Beshear, the new governor who ran Fletcher's ethically challenged keister out of Frankfort by promising a poker chip in every pot. The Gambler, bent on proving the state really is broke so voters will approve casinos, jerked back the $300,000 in what appears an effort to prove his poormouth point.

Meanwhile, back on Enterprise Road, residents continue to make appointments to have their front ends aligned and county officials are resigned to continue begging for road money that isn't likely to show up any time soon.

If The Gambler can ever break away from his high-stakes craps game long enough to review his campaign promises about better, more ethical government, here's hoping he does what's right and ends this "discretionary" road fund charade.

When and if the state has highway funds that can be distributed for county use, the idea that the money comes with strings attached is ridiculous and smacks of the kind of backroom politics that voters reject but power-grubbing politicians embrace.

County road foreman Chip Chambers is more than capable of determining which roads need the most attention and, to their credit, Judge-Executive Steve Cornish and his magistrates have made plea after consistent plea for the state to help fix Enterprise Road.

Both, however, are powerless to change the "discretionary" road fund system and are forced to accept the money that comes their way or risk getting none in the future.

That has to change. In a refreshing display of disgust, Magistrate Larry Smith is clearly tired of the politics attached to road money and, at the risk of angering the gods of transportation pork, dared again this week to question their benevolence.

His voice alone isn't enough. Every person in Anderson County should be outraged over this issue, and should make sure their state representative (Milward Dedman) and senator (Julian Carroll) know they want it changed.