There's a reason Kentucky is the last of the consistently conservative-voting southern states to put Republicans in control of both chambers of its legislature. It's because Kentucky has a RINO problem.
A RINO is a Republican in Name Only, and if news reports last week are accurate, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers is well on his way to affirming his membership in that undistinguished club. In so doing, he may assure that this November Republicans do something else they are famous for - snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Many pundits believed that 2014 would be the year that the GOP, which has held the majority in the Kentucky Senate for more than a decade, would finally secure majority status in the House as well. If Stivers proceeds down his current path, we think that's in serious doubt.
That's because Stivers told reporters last week that he and other Senate RINOs are working on a modified version of a bill passed by the Democrat-led House to raise the state's minimum wage by 40 percent over the next three years, from the current $7.25 and hour to $10.10 an hour. The bill is a precise clone of a measure President Obama proposed nationally. Obama's bill is going nowhere in Congress and most assumed the Kentucky version would receive a similar burial in the Senate.
There are plenty of practical reasons to oppose a minimum wage increase in Kentucky - notably the fact that unemployment in the state already is 1.3 percent higher than the national rate, a gap that has actually grown over the past year. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office projected that Obama's minimum wage proposal would destroy 500,000 jobs nationally. If Kentucky hikes its minimum wage while most other states don't, thousands of job losses are assured, along with small-business failures and an array of other adverse consequences.
Beyond that, the setting of a minimum wage by government flies in the face of conservative principles that favor keeping government's hands off of the free market. Artificially boosting the minimum wage also creates a disincentive for unskilled and entry-level workers to add to their skills and education.
By embracing a watered-down version of the House minimum wage bill, Stivers and his fellow Republicans are pursuing a redistributionist policy that is supposed to be the exclusive domain of Obama-Democrats. They seek to buy votes with someone else's money - in this case, disproportionately, the wages paid by struggling small businesses, financially strapped school districts, and like entities.
Rather than stand with political principle, Stivers and his herd of RINOs apparently are preparing, a minimum wage measure that might best be termed "Obama-Lite."
Kentucky Republicans have done this sort of thing before. They seem to entertain a fantasy that if they appease Democrats they will pick up Democratic votes and the liberal newspapers in Louisville and Lexington will be nice to them. But none of that ever happens.
For our part, we generally don't endorse legislative candidates. But if Stivers and his RINO brethren sell out their base with this harmful legislation, we're inclined to endorse incumbent Democrats from this end of the state in November, and perhaps a few others. At least the Democrats have the courage of their convictions, even if conventional wisdom is that it will get some of them beat.
If the Republican strategy is to be one of political cowardice, there's no reason for the party base to support them. If the GOP really wants to take control of the Legislature, it had better start finding and electing some real Republicans.