Election 2023: Allison Ball and Kim Reeder for state auditor

Published 2:03 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

This is the third in a series examining down ballot races, which include agricultural commissioner, treasurer, attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor. 

In Kentucky, the state auditor is in charge of auditing, or closely reviewing, all state government agency accounts and financial transactions. They act as internal accountants and watchdogs, detecting and investigating potential fraud.

Republican Allison Ball and Democrat Kim Reeder are vying for the office this November.

Allison Ball

Ball has been state treasurer for the past eight years. She’s also worked as a prosecutor and bankruptcy attorney before holding office.

Reeder is new to the political scene. An Eastern Kentucky native, she built her own tax practice and was named one of the top 10 tax attorneys in North America in 2011.

Why are you running?

Ball wants to continue the watchdog work she began eight years ago.

The treasurer looks at money and investments on the front end, while the auditor checks that money has been used correctly on the back end.

Reeder came from “not a lot” in Eastern Kentucky, and made a better life for herself through hard work, good government, public schools and a little bit of luck, she said.

Kim Reeder

“That’s a remarkable thing, and I really want to be able to serve Kentuckians too, so that they can have that hope for themselves and for their children,” she said.

Ball’s platform

Ball plans to continue her fight against ESG, an investment strategy focused on certain environmental, social and governance outcomes.

As treasurer, she pushed for a fossil fuel boycott bill, now law, that states that the state will not include any organization or company that boycotts fossil fuels in its investment portfolios or pensions.

“I’ve always believed that investments should be about getting good returns. That’s what people expect when you have a pension,” Ball said. “But there’s been a move in the last few years to change investments and use it instead as leverage to push certain societal outcomes and they’re all ideological – they’re all progressive and left wing.”

Ball is mostly concerned about the “E” part of ESG, which prioritizes cleaner energy. She said this is a threat to Kentucky, the 7th largest coal producer in the nation.

Besides ESG, Ball would consider several special audits alongside the General Assembly, including one on the Jefferson County Schools system.

Finally, she wants to continue expanding government transparency.

“I’ve always thought the auditor’s office is well placed to make more government spending publicly available,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to grow the website and grow capabilities to include local county and city school information.”

Reeder’s platform

Reeder also wants to conduct more performance audits, which she says have declined in recent years.

“What the auditor has the ability to do with the performance audits is where there’s a problem, to see how we’re addressing it and give taxpayers more information so that they know how to hold others accountable,” she said.

“It really is just more analysis.”

She would seek taxpayer input on what to look into specifically, but has a few ideas.

For example, Kentucky recently released its first statewide data report on domestic violence. Reeder said the statistics were very high, even considering underreporting, and that she would like to use performance audits to look into prevention programs to see how the issue is being addressed.

She also mentioned looking into how school districts and public universities are addressing rising cybersecurity issues.

But her primary goal is to look into SEEK funding, a formula-based system that allocated state funds to school districts.

In 1989, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled in Rose v. Council for Better Education that disparities between funding of affluent and poor school districts were unconstitutional.

The court said that the legislature had not met its requirement to provide an adequate education to all children.

However, three decades after the resulting Kentucky Education Reform Act was passed, KyPolicy research has found that the disparities between affluent and poor districts have only widened, according to per-pupil funding.

If elected, Reeder would look into SEEK allocations to make sure they are in compliance with the Supreme Court ruling, and if not, refer the issue to the attorney general.

Reeder would also work with counties to reduce overwhelming audit fees. She wants to create a “plain language manual” to help local leaders collect taxes and properly account for them on the front end to avoid problems later.

What makes you the right person for the job?

Neither candidate was quick to criticize their competitor, but they did share what they thought made them uniquely qualified for the office.

Ball said her track record sets her apart.

As treasurer, Ball launched a high school financial literacy requirement, returned $171 million in unclaimed property and created a transparency website.

“I’ve been telling people that if you want to know what I will be like as an auditor, just look and see what I’ve been like as a treasurer,” she said.

She’s used to diving into the numbers and isn’t afraid to hold people accountable, as she learned in her previous jobs as bankruptcy attorney and prosecutor, respectively.

Reeder graduated from Yale, got her master’s at Duke and went to law school at UNC. She has also been a partner at a big four accounting firm, where she had to give opinions on tax issues and financial statements.

She said this experience distinguishes her.

“I am exceptionally qualified. I have exceptionally good credentials as far as my educational background and my professional experiences to do this job,” Reeder said.

“If we were interviewing for this job, and you were looking at resumes, my resume matches this job and is strong for this job. And I think it is stronger than hers is in that way.”