There are four candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor. They are incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin, Rep. Robert Goforth of Laurel County, Ike Lawrence of Lexington and William E. Woods of Boone County.
CNHI Kentucky asked all four candidates the same questions: Why are you running? What is your plan for pensions and how would you address Kentucky's budget issues.
Gov. Matt Bevin is the incumbent Republican governor. His campaign staff did not respond to requests to participate in this election preview story.
Robert Goforth is a pharmacist, business owner and state representative from East Bernstadt.
"I decided to run for governor this year because I feel very passionate about Kentucky, and I believe with all my heart that we can, and must, do better. Kentuckians deserve a governor who makes them feel good about their chief executive and about themselves. Gov. Matt Bevin has failed miserably on both fronts. Rather than a governor who lectures more than he listens, and who lambasts more than he leads, I offer Kentuckians a different choice. I will bring Kentuckians together and restore respectful, responsive leadership that delivers positive results for our state."
• What is your plan for fixing the Kentucky pension system?
"The single biggest obstacle to the current governor's approach to the pension crisis is his believe that he alone has the answers to the problems. I will implement a collaborative approach that puts all the stakeholders together to honestly seek and implement answers that will be fair and just to all. I have identified specific revenue sources to address the pension shortfall as well as address other areas of the state budget that need funding (detailed in answer to budget question).
"Retired and current state employees should not have to make any "sacrifices" regarding legal as well as moral obligations that were made to them through inviolable contracts when it comes to their retirements. I do not believe that any "sacrifices" must be inordinately applied to Kentucky's taxpayers when it comes to raising taxes either. We can solve these problems without harming our retired and current state employees or asking more from the taxpayers of Kentucky."
• What is your plan for addressing Kentucky's budget issues?
"I have identified three areas of revenue that can be tapped into to solve Kentucky's pension crisis as well as to fund other vital parts of the state budget. First, I would opt out of the Master Tobacco Settlement so that instead of getting back $80 to $100 million per year, we could keep all of the approximately $250 million of that money that we currently send out here in Kentucky. Second, I would bring management of Kentucky Medicaid back in-house within the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Gov. Beshear turned over management of the program to MCOs (managed care organizations) and PBMs (pharmacy benefit managers) forcing us to bear costs of around $500 million per year when we could bring it back in-house for $50 million or less per year. Third, we need to take a hard look at over 600 state tax exemptions that could potentially generate billions of new dollars per year in state revenue if modified."
Lawrence, 63, is president of Lawrence Properties.
"I am running because I don't see Gov Bevin wanting to tackle other tough issues below the surface. Like an iceberg, where only 10 percent (pension/opiod) is seen above surface, the 90 percent is not being watched for, ready to sink our titanic state of Kentucky. In high schools, we have a climate of blaming teachers and schools for under performing students. Sorry, it's 100 percent poor parenting and lack of discipline and tough-love in the home. High dress code and/or uniforms demanded at the site-based council will fix a lot of disrespect shown to our teachers. A total ban/silence of cell phones from 8-3 p.m. will fix a lot of social media bullying that also goes on between students.
"We don't need this grandiose experiment called charter schools. We need to mimic the success of Catholic and Christian schools and compete one-on-one. Free public education is one of the greatest accomplishments of the 20th century. Let's not let a few ruin it. If the kids aren't there to learn 100 percent, then send them back to their 'manufacturer' with a note on attitude adjustments the parents need to make over their child. Just because public education is free, doesn't mean the out-of-control child and enabling parent get to rule the roost bringing low standards to our middle and high schools.
"As co-founder of the Town and Gown Commission, we have a 29 percent graduation rate of our UK freshman in four years and 58 percent in six years. Yet 85-90 percent graduation rate at our 'twin' students at private colleges like Centre and Transylvania. Receiving no credit in changing majors is the blame here. This draconian rule must change. Tuition level for four years would also be guaranteed in a Lawrence Administration. I would also restore beer parties back on campus (to save our neighborhoods and get kids back on-campus) and lower beer-only drinking to age19, age 18 for military for all Kentucky kids. Almost all DUIs are due to age 21+ singles, mom and dads alike, not our military eligible, college students. I would sue any attempt to take away federal highway funds all the way to Supreme Court. As governor, I would replace trustees who didn't live up these old-fashion ideals. UK is the only dry SEC school. We are losing to many of our best and brightest to our SEC competitors.
"Gov Bevin is 0-2 in bringing large manufacturing companies to Ashland and Pikeville. He is working on a third company to Brandenburg(Meade Co). Although I will honor any prior agreements of state start-up capital committed, as the new governor, I will return all new monies to the counties with economic incentives at the local level. No way should 119 counties($630k/county) pay for the 'lottery winnings' of one lucky county($75 million).
"On pensions, 'over-promises' needs to be included in the discussion as much a 'under-funding'. On fentanyl deaths, we need to eradicate the dealer and quit blaming the addicted.
"Rising tide raises all boats. I am a firm believer in the talents that come from our UnCommonWealth of citizens, not from 'carpet-bagging' outsiders. Move here to be a Kentuckian, not the other way around."
• How would you address Kentucky pensions?
"The problem originated with legislatures of the past giving too much over-promise benefit away in exchange for union votes. Thus, the solution needs to come from the 138 members and pensioners and lobbyists and I will sign any bill that fixes the problem without raising taxes. In the meantime, until a new law is passed, I will roll back the 17 new sales taxes on services that were to replace new teachers paying in to their new 401k. Bevin was able to make the largest payment to pensions ever without divulging it was possible because of these new taxes on July 1, '18. We are 'killing the frog' with all these new, slow-cooking, tax increases."
• What is your plan for addressing Kentucky's budget issues?
"Like I stated, I would roll back the 17 new taxes on services, since the 2018 pension law was set aside on technical reasons only. The merits of changes to the inviolable contract were not addressed. Since the taxes were tied directly to replacing the new teachers no longer paying into the retiree's 2-to-1 'ponzie scheme', the taxes on services need to stop.
"This gives the citizens of Kentucky more money to save and spend and forces pensions and lawmakers to act once again on meaningful reform.
"Our budget cannot get a footing until this is accomplished. Our children and grandchildren should not have to pay for the irresponsible give- away of our state treasury by past lawmakers, lobbyists and unions."
William E. Woods
Woods is a school bus driver at Boone County Schools and a real estate agent at the Northern Kentucky office of Keller-Williams Realty.
"On May 21 the citizens of the Commonwealth have an opportunity to elect dignified leaders who will put the hardworking citizens of Kentucky first. As Governor and Lt. Governor, Justin Miller and I will go to work in Frankfort every single day -- focused on one simple task -- making the lives of all Kentuckians better.
"We have serious issues that must be dealt with by leaders with the experience to attack a problem and fix it, without placing blame and without causing more pain to those impacted.
"We must allow Kentuckians to benefit from expanded gaming and marijuana revenue. We must stop lying about the pension system and begin funding it. We must realize as a Commonwealth that a healthy workforce capable of completing a job is much more attractive to businesses than a tax incentive.
"We will end the school to prison cycle for our youth. We will immediately restore voting rights to former felons and will push businesses to stop seeing those individuals as second class citizens when hiring new employees.
"We will make it clear that at no time will Kentucky's Governor hide from the media. I will answer any and all questions respectfully and I will make it clear on day one that Kentuckians do not get turned away when visiting the Capital Building that belongs to them.
"We will cut waste from the budget, provide additional funding to public schools and protect public education.
"Most important, as non-politicians, Justin and I will return dignity, integrity and respect back to the Governor and Lt. Governor's Offices. Kentucky deserves 100% transparent leadership from day one and that's exactly what we'll provide. Our campaign has focused entirely on the people and what their needs are - not fundraising.
"Don't be fooled by the thought that one is unable to lead effectively without being a millionaire. Just look at the person and who you believe will put you and your family's needs before his own. As I've said from day one, I'd rather have your vote than your dollar. It's time for a Kentuckian to Lead Kentucky. There's no place I'd rather call home and there's no group of citizens I'd rather lead. Kentucky First means just that -- putting the people of the Commonwealth above all else. We hold the firm belief that Kentucky's People Are Her Power. We're ready to lead and graciously ask for your vote."