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Kentucky Public Radio Voter Guide: State Auditor

On left woman smiling with brown hair, dark suit with Kentucky flag in background. On right, woman smiling with blonde hair and dark suit.
Provided
Current GOP Treasurer Alison Ball on left, Democratic challenger Kim Reeder on right.

The state auditor acts as the state’s chief watchdog of taxpayer dollars, responsible for investigating spending of public funds, from local agencies to state universities.

With current GOP Auditor Mike Harmon term-limited, the race is open. Outgoing GOP Treasurer Allison Ball is facing Democrat Kimberley Reeder, a tax attorney and educator.

Woman smiles at camera with dark suit, Kentucky flag in background.
Provided
State Treasurer Allison Ball.

Allison Ball

Republican

Age: 42

Residence: Prestonsburg

Occupation: Attorney

Previous elected/government experience: Current State Treasurer

Campaign website: https://ballforkentucky.com/

Ball responded to questions for this voter guide. Excerpts included below.

Why she wants the job

Ball said her time as treasurer has prepared her to run the state auditor’s office.

"I made sure that whatever’s paid by Kentucky is correct, legal, and constitutional. So I’m those eyes that guard the bank account. The auditor is the watchdog on the back end. The auditor makes sure once the money has been spent the money is used correctly, and if not, there’s accountability,” she said.

First priority in office

Ball said she wants to focus on problems in Kentucky’s largest school system, Jefferson County Public Schools. During a GOP gathering in Bowling Green in August, she slammed the disastrous rollout of the district’s new transportation plan.

"You would think this is the first time they’ve ever used buses to get kids to school in Jefferson County. It’s not. I think it’s time to make sure that they have the right processes in place. This should not happen in the largest city in Kentucky," she said.

Auditing disaster relief funds

Ball said she wants to continue outgoing Auditor Mike Harmon's review of the relief funds for victims of the western Kentucky tornadoes and eastern Kentucky floods.

"That’s going to be a long-term project because those funds are going to be in there for a while. It’s not going to be done before Auditor Harmon leaves. I’m a big believer in transparency. These are not taxpayer funds, but donated dollars," she said.

Making the office more transparent

Ball said she wants to put more information about state spending online.

"I want to work at the local level, the city and county level. I want to have more school information available. As auditor, I’ll have more access to information that I did as treasurer," she said.

Restricting investments in "ESG" companies

Kentucky Republicans have attempted to block the state from investing in companies that take environmental, social and governance issues into account, instead requiring investments to solely be based on financial return and risk.

Ball says such companies are unfairly targeting oil, gas and coal industries and that the state shouldn't associate with them.

"We had some challenges with some of the people on our pension boards on their commitment to making sure this isn’t political and it’s just about returns. These board makeups change all the time and I think it’s something we always need to watch," she said.

Some of the country’s largest investment management firms use ESG standards to evaluate the future financial performance of companies and industries they want to invest in.

Woman smiles at camera with dark suit, light wall in background.
Provided
Kimberley Reeder

Kimberley Reeder

Democrat

Age: 54

Residence: Morehead

Occupation: Tax attorney

Website: https://kimforkentucky.com/

Reeder was interviewed for this voter guide. Excerpts included below.

Why she wants the job

Reeder said her experience as a tax attorney prepared her for the oversight role. She said she wants to make sure tax dollars are not being wasted or misspent.

"When I was practicing, I was responsible for digging into details, understanding complicated financial transactions, and being able to understand whether they were in compliance with various rules, accounting and legal," she said.

First priority in office

Reeder taught at Rowan County High School and Morehead State University. She said one of her first acts would be to audit Kentucky’s school funding formula.

A recent analysis showed the per-pupil funding gap between the wealthiest and poorest school districts has widened in recent decades.

"Students and education are a personal passion of mine. Education funding is such a large percentage of the state budget and we all care about our children, so I think it would be a terrific priority," she said.

Auditing disaster relief funds

Reeder said the funds should be examined, but held off on saying she would continue outgoing Auditor Mike Harmon's investigation into them.

"Everyone wants those funds, especially for survivors of the terrible disasters, we want to get that in the hands of those who need it. Those problems should be examined. I guess it’s a matter of whether it’s a hiccup or a systemic issue," she said.

Making the office more transparent

Reeder said she would seek input from citizens on how to make government more accessible.

"Really opening up that process and understanding what’s important to people. Increasing open meetings always increases transparency. I would certainly make myself available as much as possible to answer questions. I believe transparency is a critical component to accountability," she said.

Restricting investments in "ESG" companies

Reeder opposes the anti-"ESG" efforts that have passed out of the legislature in recent years, saying companies need to take a wide range of risks into account when making investments, including environmental factors.

"Any government employee charged with managing funds, they are a caretaker of those funds and always doing risk management. I think the fiduciary duties that those individuals have, it already includes some consideration of how investment returns could be impacted by any sort of trend, including climate trends," she said.