Bevin, Conway clash over policy at Chamber forum

07/28/2015 10:34 PM

In their third joint appearance of the general election gubernatorial candidates Matt Bevin and Jack Conway traded barbs as policy took center stage.

The forum between Bevin and Conway keynoted the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual business summit in Louisville on Tuesday. The forum was moderated by former Pure Politics managing editor Ryan Alessi.

The next governor will assume office in December and will quickly have to produce a budget to guide the state over the next two years. A seemingly straightforward question to Bevin about what his top budgeted priority would be drew a quick rebuke.

“If I told you that I’d have to kill you,” Bevin said after Alessi tried for a third time to learn Bevin’s top-budgeted program. (2:00 in the video)

“I’m not going to give you a specific priority because we have 11 cents and to do so then causes people to think they’re not going to be heard. We have to cover a dollar’s worth of need with 11 cents.”

Conway said the billions allocated in the budgeting process does allow for “some flexibility for a governor to put forward his or her priorities.”

Among the top priorities for Conway is early childhood education.

“I think it’s one of the most important things we could do,” he said.

With an emphasis on early childhood education, Conway said he would search for the money needed to extend programs to 3- and 4-year-olds whose parents earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty rate.

Conway and Bevin said the state can’t afford to offer expanded access to all 110,000 3- and 4-year-old kids in the state.

Bevin also called into question the “science” Conway stated on the benefits of early childhood education, while still calling for early childhood education programs.

“We need early childhood education, no question about it,” Bevin said.

Still Bevin again called for a tougher look at the federal Head Start program.

“I have said not that we need to eliminate Head Start, but that we need to rethink how we allocate those dollars,” he said.

Bevin added that there are no studies that show Head Start has an effect on kids past the age of 9.

“Your science that they forget it all by the age 9 is wrong,” Conway challenged back to Bevin, citing studies of his own.

Sticking with the economic themes Alessi also questioned Conway’s jobs plan which calls for the creation of a cabinet-level Office of Small Business Advocacy, which Conway has said would be funded by eliminating inefficiencies in state government.

Alessi asked how Conway could earn the trust of voters who are looking for him to cut government to be more efficient if he is growing government.

“Just because I’ve proposed creating an office with some employees whose job it is 24/7 to be responsive to the needs of small buinesses around the state doesn’t mean I’m going to grow government,” he said.

During the exchange Bevin and Conway also exchanged barbs over Conway’s time in Gov. Paul Patton’s administration. Bevin said Conway was reaching on his record.

Conway fired back saying, “I was young … But I was here. I was a Kentuckian. I brought my education back to a state that I loved. There are a lot of reporters who are here in this room that were there with me and I think they know that that experience was real.”

Bevin fired back asking Conway, “was that a Duke education you brought back?” To which Conway quipped “at least I’ll tell the truth on where I went to college.”

It would not be the last barb Bevin traded while at the Chamber forum.

After the on-stage forum Bevin spoke with a group of reporters about specific policy, but the discussion turned contentious when WAVE-TV’s Theo Keith attempted to ask a question of the GOP nominee.

“I’m taking questions from people that are not working for the Conway campaign,” Bevin told Keith.

Later Bevin was asked by Joe Sonka of Insider Louisville, “How many of us here are Conway employees?”

“I don’t know. That’s a good question. I know there’s at least one,” he said. “I’m just saying there are people who work for journalistic purposes and some maybe not.”

Pure Politics was not part of the press gaggle, but a video of the full gathering was posted on YouTube by the account Ky Gov.


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