For the first time in this fall campaign season, the three candidates for lieutenant governor shared a ‘debate’ setting. It came during a series of forums broadcast statewide by Kentucky Educational Television. Taxes and jobs dominated much of the discussion.
When two or more politicians have gathered this fall, almost always, the creation and retention of jobs have been major talking points. Each candidate for lieutenant governor worked during the K-E-T forum to convince viewers their running mate offers the best ‘employment’ strategy. Former Louisville mayor Jerry Abramson, running alongside Governor Steve Beshear, bragged about an incentive plan that offers state tax breaks to existing businesses. Abramson claims the program created hundreds of jobs, but Independent Dea Riley, who shares the ticket with Gatewood Galbraith, was not impressed.
“Well you know what we are 100 thousand jobs short….and I really appreciate the 350 there and the 150 here, but that number doesn’t equal the 100 thousand jobs that we’ve lost….but you have to in this day and age,” said Riley.
“You hit a home run with Ford Motor..you hit a home run with General Electric…you hit a home run with UPS expansion..but you got to do it with singles and doubles and triples..putting it in the World Series perspective,” said Abramson.
Agriculture Commissioner Richie Farmer, who’s the G-O-P candidate, chimed in, saying Kentucky lost tens of thousands of jobs during the Beshear Administration.
“Obviously with a hundred thousand less people working today than was working when he took office then obviously there’s more that has gone than has been created,” said Farmer.
Both Farmer and Riley say now is the time to act. The Republican ticket wants to eliminate personal and corporate income taxes and re-work the state’s system of sales taxes. Abramson argues such a change would significantly bump up the sales tax. The former mayor says the Kentucky economy is still fragile and cannot handle significant tax reform.
Riley joined the Galbraith ticket after spending time in Utah helping develop ski resorts. Coming home to Kentucky, Riley says she noticed numerous missed opportunities.
There’s fishing, hunting, hiking, mountain biking, non motorized trail development….none of that has been developed in the state of Kentucky…and these are mega industries…that bring in mega dollars,” said Riley.
Riley added there are a number of ways to bolster Kentucky’s economy.
“We need to invite in a public-private sector model rather than this reliance on governor funding and so on. …we can do that…but we need to do so through expansion resort recreational development in Appalachia…the expansion of the medical community…in the western part of the state…bio industry development and then strong support of entrepreneurship small businesses and employment,” added Riley.
Richie Farmer talked about gains in the Kentucky Proud program, the marketing effort for products grown or made in Kentucky. He says the program has gone from a couple dozen producers to over 28 hundred and a half billion dollars in retail sales.
During the campaign, Farmer has been criticized for his use of public funds while travelling on state business. A caller asked him about overnight stays within the state of Kentucky. Farmer explained the state fair, for instance, offers a once a year opportunity.
“You know there’s functions from daylight to dark there during that time. …so I don’t have any qualms about things that we’ve done to promote agriculture,” said Farmer.
Democrat Jerry Abramson said Kentucky could benefit from an expansion of community colleges. Following the hour long K-E-T forum, Abramson said, initially, such an expansion would focus on existing schools.
“So as funds are available, I think you’ll see expansion of existing sites and I’m not aware of a new one that would need to be….although Bullitt county is making a pretty good argument..having five little rooms in somebody’s private business when they’ve got 400 people waiting in line to be part of the community college is certainly something to look at,” explained Abramson.
Dea Riley and Farmer agree education is key to economic development.
Of course, there are other political questions to ponder. Gatewood Galbraith, in the last gubernatorial debate, claimed, if re-elected, Governor Beshear would step down mid way through his term, clearing the way for Abramson to take over. Last night, Abramson simply said, “It’s not gonna’ happen.” As to the prospects of running for governor four years from now, he was not as firm.
“Well let’s see what we do for four years, if I get the chance to be lieutenant governor…I look forward to the opportunity to make Kentucky as good as it can be with the best governor that we can have….Steve Beshear….and we’ll worry about that…you know check with me in four years,” said Abramson.
Many polls have show the Williams-Farmer ticket trailing the incumbent by double digit margins. Farmer admits there is still a lot of campaigning to do.
“People are a little bit disgruntled about the way things have gone and you know what’s going on in the federal government and things in general. I think the key is to making people aware that we can win and that we need their help and get out to the polls and vote, and if we do that I think there could be a surprise waiting ahead,” said Farmer.
The answers will come two weeks from today, when Kentuckians go to the polls.