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Study: Kentucky's Public Spending Among the Most Corrupt in Nation

Kentucky LRC

A new study suggests that states with high levels of public corruption like Kentucky tend to spend more money on capital construction projects and police protection at the expense of social services.

The journal Public Administration Review found a correlation between states with higher instances of corruption and the scale of a state's spending in certain economic sectors. It also found that between 1997 and 2008, corruption actually inflated a state's total annual expenditures.

"During that time, the 10 most corrupt states could have reduced their total annual expenditure by an average of $1,308 per capita—5.2 percent of the mean per capita state expenditure—if corruption had been at the average level of the states," the study states.

"Moreover, at the expense of social sectors, corruption is likely to distort states’ public resource allocations in favor of higher-potential “bribe-generating” spending and items directly beneficial to public officials, such as capital, construction, highways, borrowing, and total salaries and wages."

The journal analyzed 25,000 public corruption convictions across the U.S.

"The convictions are just the ones who got caught. If there's a lot of convictions, there's probably a bunch that haven't been caught."

Between 2001 and 2010, Kentucky had 281 convictions of public officials on corruption-related charges, ranking the Commonwealth third in the nation for such convictions, according to a 2012 analysis by Governing Magazine.

Indiana University professor John Mikesell, who co-authored the study, told Governing Magazine that states like Kentucky with high conviction rates are only providing "a sample climate of the state."

The Kentucky General Assembly passed a $4.1 billion highway plan this year, which included tens of millions of dollars for the $2.6 billion Ohio River Bridges Project, while funding for several social services provided by state government has seen a steady decline since 2008.

The study places Kentucky among the top 10 most corrupt states in the nation, alongside Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Illinois and Alaska.

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