There are four Democrats facing off in the party's primary in the race for governor on May 21. They are Rocky Adkins, Andy Beshear, Adam Edelen, and Geoffrey Young.
CNHI Kentucky asked each candidate the same three questions. Why are you running for governor? What is your plan for pensions? What is your strategy for addressing Kentucky's budget problems? Below are their responses.
Candidates are listed in alphabetical order.
Adkins is the current House Minority leader in Kentucky and he has served in the state legislature for more three decades.
"I am running for governor to return dignity and respect back to the governor's office. I disagree with Matt Bevin's agenda; he has insulted and belittled Kentuckians and his policies have hurt working families. As governor, I will bring common sense back to the commonwealth. I will work to ensure that every student receives a high-quality education. I will invest in infrastructure to create new opportunities, whether it's improving our roads and bridges or building the high-speed internet network of the future. I will work to create jobs that provide a fair wage and spur sustainable economic growth in all regions of the commonwealth. I believe that everyone should have access to health care. I am a cancer survivor and I know first-hand the importance of affordable health care. No Kentuckian should ever have to delay care or make the tough decision between purchasing prescription medication or paying their electric bill. Lastly, I will jumpstart our workforce and create new career paths for Kentuckians with tuition-free community college and job training.
What is your plan for fixing the Kentucky pension system?
"What happened to educators and public employees during Matt Bevin's Administration is inexcusable. No educator, school bus driver, fire fighter, police officer or other public employee should have to beg for the dignity of the pension they were promised. I am committed to protecting the promises made to public employees and educators, now and in the future. In 2013, the legislature implemented reforms to strengthen the faltering retirement system. Those reforms are working, and the investment numbers prove it. To solve this pension problem we must keep the reforms we made and fully fund it. In addition, we need to identify a dedicated funding source for our pension system.?
What is your plan for addressing Kentucky's budget issues -- revenues versus expenditures?
"There are $13 billion of tax loopholes in the Kentucky tax code, which is about $2 billion more than our entire general fund budget. Fair and comprehensive tax reform that leads to only 10 percent of that $13 billion will give the state $1.3 billion to fund necessary programs, without losing any competitive advantage in recruiting or retaining business and industry. Consumption taxes are unfair to lower income populations and are not the answer to a revenue problem. Kentucky must stop balancing its checkbook on the backs of working families. We will also look at ways to generate revenue through medical marijuana, hemp, and other new industries. "
Edelen is a former state auditor and businessman who is developing a 100 megawatt solar project in Eastern Kentucky near Pikeville on a mountaintop removal site. He said Kentucky needs to get smart about pursuing the jobs of the future and adopt an economic growth strategy that aligns with this mission.
"I'm running for governor because Kentucky is aggressively running in the opposite direction of where we need to be running in,. We are chasing a low-skill low-wage economy that doesn't exist anymore. To build a progressive, prosperous Kentucky we are going to have to build a modern Kentucky. It is going to require a skillset by a 21st century leader and that is my background, that's my experience. We have to chase the jobs of the future. That includes renewable energy as part of our portfolio. That includes getting the internet to every Kentuckian, investing in healthcare and expanding education. These are the things that I'm focused on and I've got a unique skillset for."
What is your position on pensions?
"Protecting pensions is important. What makes me difference is I understand it is not the best we can do -- it is the least we can do. Protecting the pension promise particularly to school teachers doesn't change the fact that every school teacher I know spends money out of their own pocket buying materials for our kids. It is not an agenda for building a world class system of education....If Kentucky is going to be what it ought to be we've got to talk about education like how to integrate technology in the classroom because kids process information differently than we did. If you don't believe me give a 3-year-old an I-phone. It's about making sure an 11th or 12th grader a better passageway to what comes next. It's about making sure the community, the technical, and higher education at a university is affordable. We can't continue to see the spike in class size."
Kentucky's revenue shortage:
"We have an outdated tax code that collects $10 billion annually for the state. Through loopholes it excuses about $12 billion. On top of that when you chase a low-skill low-wage economy you are not growing in a way that creates revenue for the treasury. We need a fairer tax code. We need comprehensive tax reform. We need to be open to outside forms of revenue be it expanded gaming or other opportunities, but beyond that we've got to create the jobs of the future. To create the jobs of the future you have to have an entrepreneur who has experience doing just that. From the work that I have done in renewable energy to the job I've done in tech I'm the only candidate who has a record of creating jobs in a modern economy."
Beshear is currently the state's attorney general and the son of former governor Steve Beshear.
"I'm running for governor because I'm a fighter who gets results. Matt Bevin is one of the most disastrous governors we've seen in our history. If you don't believe me ask a family with a child with a pre-existing condition like diabetes. Ask a teacher who has been called names and had his or her retirement put in a sewer bill. Ask anyone who has lost someone close to them to this drug epidemic. I'm fighting because I have a record of beating Matt Bevin. I beat him when he tried to illegally cut our community colleges and universities and (I) won. I fought him when he tried to cut retirements for our public servants and won. I also have a record of getting results because our family desperately deserves results.
We've addressed Kentucky's rape kit backlog. We've tested every kit and we have seven indictments coming out of it thus far. I'm the most aggressive attorney general in the country at suing opioid manufacturers and distributors...nine suits where we have won every single argument and motion thus far. That's what our families need."
How about pensions. What's your blueprint?
"Our pensions are a promise. I owe our teachers and public servants so much. I'm a graduate of Fayette Public Schools. I would not be here without them. So I am going to keep our promise to all of our public servants. We are going to fully fund the pension system because these folks have given their lives to public service. It takes decades of teaching our kids, protecting our communities, serving the neglected,...to earn a pension and we are going to honor that. So I'm going to work every day to create new revenue streams dedicated solely to the pension system. It will increase our bond rating decrease our costs and get us on the road to solvency."
Kentucky's revenue shortage:
"We've got to do a couple of things. Number 1 we've got to enact new revenue streams that don't raise anybody's taxes like expanded gaming which could bring in up to $550 million in revenue that's just going to other states right now including one right next door....It is time we allow medicinal marijuana that not only will get chronic pain patients the help they need, because opioids don't work for longterm pain...but it will also create about $50 million in revenue...It would take a prescription and we would do it responsibly. After that we've got to get rid of a bunch of unfair tax breaks. Right now if you purchase a corporate jet or a private jet you don't have to pay sales tax. If you can afford a private jet you can afford to pay sales tax. Same with luxury house boats. We've got to stop giving away tax breaks to companies that aren't paying a living wage...all of those will generate or free up significant additional revenue."
Geoffrey M. Young
Young has lived in Lexington for the last 37 years. He is originally from Massachusetts and possesses two master's degrees. He is a former employee of the state for 15 years in the state energy office, working on energy efficiency and promoting renewables.
"I think I can do a good job...we have one of the most progressive platforms of any of the candidates running all eight of them. We are for strengthening and defending unions which are under heavy attack. We are for defending the Roe v Wade Supreme Court decision on abortion in 1973. The right to life movement wants to make all abortions illegal after conception. It is an unachievable goal. It will never happen. Countries that have tried that see the abortion rate go up, not down. It is very rare when you've got a conflict or disagreement in society and one of the groups is entirely right and the other group is entirely wrong. The right to life movement is totally wrong on the abortion issue. Planned Parenthood and Democrats are the true pro-life Americans because Planned Parenthood provides birth control information, health services for women, they lower the abortion rate more effectively than any right to life organization that has ever existed."
Pensions. What is your take?
"The pension crisis is basically a crisis of the state budget not having enough revenue to cover all of the mandated projects and programs that are helping Kentucky move into the future. So the real crisis is a state budget crisis. Ways to solve that? One, legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes and tax it. Two tax the rich. We need comprehensive tax reform. I'm a Bernie Sanders Democrat. I supported him strongly in 2016. If we don't reduce this income inequality problem then Kentucky will just continue to be held back. Tax the rich. It will solve the pension crisis. Not immediately but over a number of years.
"My big picture vision is a cooperative commonwealth. What we have now is class warfare being waged by the 1 percent millionaires against everyone else. Improving income inequality, strengthening unions, encouraging worker co-ops, worker-owned businesses all of which will make Kentucky more Democratic. People will have more of a say over their day-to-day lives. That could bring a revival of our economy not based on one or two industries. The whole economy will do better because rich people they just hoard their money they invest in stocks somewhere else, ship it offshore, but small business is the engine for Kentucky's growth."