My friend Andy Hightower has an uncomfortable question for my friend Gatewood Galbraith:
When is Gatewood Actually for Limited Government?
When it comes to economic issues, it’s perhaps true that he shows almost no commitment to a smaller, less-intrusive state government. For example, it’s not clear how you square automatic pay raises for state workers with assuring that there is no waste in government. A pay raise to an ineffective worker is pretty much the definition of waste. And any pay raise has ripple effects, the largest of which is that any pay raise also raises pension payments for decades after the worker has retired. Andy has a few other troubling examples of where Gatewood clearly opposes shrinking the size and scope of government.
But even in that range of issues, I think Andy misunderstands one claim. When someone speaks of moving the Kentucky Retirement Systems to a “sound actuarial basis,” that might well mean changing benefit formulas, reducing the rate at which workers accrue obligations from their fellow Kentuckians and other adjustments that could mean spending less.
One Gatewood campaign promise (the least binding form of social commitment, I realize) is this:
“Every budget will make positive steps to correct the underfunding of the Kentucky Retirement System. We cannot fix decades of legislative underfunding of the retirement system in four years, but we can start moving the system to a sound actuarial base.”
This could be simply a dog whistle to people like me (or to state workers) that means, depending on your view, that Gatewood will raise new revenues to cover these growing obligations or he’ll fight to make the program more rational (smaller) with regard to the accrual of benefits. Most appropriate would be for the program to stop using high “assumed rates of return” for the purposes of calculating funding levels.
Kentucky’s governor basically has no authority to make changes to the program, but there are changes the governor could make to raise the political price of future promises to the state workforce. I wish all gubernatorial candidates would consider those ideas. As direct beneficiaries of state pensions, both David Williams and Steve Beshear have muted incentives to do anything to change or make more transparent the pensions that state workers receive.
But there’s another side to “limited government,” and it’s the side I think Gatewood Galbraith, a successful criminal defense attorney, can and should claim as his moral high ground.
Gatewood, at least in my conversations with him, holds an expansive view of the Fourth Amendment especially when it comes to when police may enter the home. He opposes mandatory minimum sentences for most crimes and generally takes a dim view of the immunity that prosecutors and police have, which can provide cover for prosecutors and police either overstepping their authority or failing to provide defense attorneys with exculpatory evidence.
The case of Kentucky v. King handed police new powers to enter your home without a warrant. If Gatewood wants to be the protector of civil liberties, decrying this encroachment loudly and often seems appropriate. Here’s my colleague Tim Lynch on the case.
As Governor, however, I’m not sure how that translates to a greater protection of personal liberties. The governor is the chief executive. He shouldn’t be the chief policymaker. My point here is not to say that Andy is wrong. In every particular he offers, he seems to be right about Gatewood’s troubling support for some forms of government expansion. My only suggestion is that being for “limited government” means a broader range of issues than Andy seems to imply.