David Williams says he's one with the tea party but not a tea partier

12/20/2010 07:38 PM

Republican candidate for governor David Williams said some of his views are in line with the tea party movement, but he denied that he has declared himself a tea party candidate.

He likened his relationship to the tea party movement to John F. Kennedy’s 1963 speech in Berlin about American solidarity with West Germans in which Kennedy famously said, “Ich bin ein Berliner” — “I am one with Berlin.”

“I didn’t actually call myself a tea party candidate,” Williams said in the second segment of an interview on Pure Politics Monday. “I embrace many of the tea party principles of smaller government … I haven’t been to very man tea party meetings or anything, but I’m for lower government for less burden of the federal government.”

He also answered questions about whether his past votes on budgets and taxes, such as his vote for the Kentucky Education Reform Act that raised taxes, would undermine his attempts to bolster his lower-taxes, smaller-government image.

And Williams said he didn’t think Republican U.S. Senator-elect Rand Paul — a tea party favorite — would endorse before the May GOP primary for governor between Williams and Louisville businessman Phil Moffett.

“I hope when I’m the Republican nominee he’ll support me. I don’t anticipate he’ll get involved in the primary,” Williams said.

Overall, Williams said he’s running for governor because the incumbent, Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear is a “nice enough fellow, pleasant fellow” but a “caretaker” who doesn’t have an agenda for Kentucky.

“I don’t know that I’d rather be governor than Senate president,” he said.

(Read what he said about changes to the state’s public employee pension system after the video.)

Also in the second segment of the interview, Williams talked about the Senate Republicans’ forthcoming proposal to rework retirement benefits for future state workers.

Williams said the Senate GOP’s proposal — if passed — would allow state workers hired after July 1, 2011 to contribute up to 8 percent of their salaries into a 401(k)-style program, and the state would match up to 5% for the money to be invested for their retirement funds.

Those employees would vested after between 6 and 10 years, which would allow them to take the state’s contributions with them if they switch jobs, he said. The goal is to reduce the state’s long-term financial burden for the pension system, he said.

“Ultimately, we’ll have an entire group of employees without unfunded liabilities,” he said.

He said he wasn’t worried about whether that is risky given the fluctuations on Wall Street.

“There’s no difference between those folks and everyone out in the private sector. We’re trying to level the playing field,” Williams added.

“This retirement bill is crucial for us to pay for the other necessary sort of services — education, public protection and those other things,” he said. “… To meet our obligation to those other areas we cannot allow the unfunded pension liability to do to us what it has done to other states.”

- Ryan Alessi

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