Edelen, Conway and Comer preview 2015 themes of Ky. education, health funding and pill abuse

09/24/2013 05:30 PM

Failing to streamline bloated school district administrations in order to pump money back into classrooms will mean Kentucky leaders have “written the suicide note for this state,” state Auditor Adam Edelen said Tuesday.

“We’ll continue to muddle around in mediocrity,” Edelen, a Democrat, added during a roundtable of statewide constitutional officers in Lexington.

Although not asked specifically about biggest challenges facing the state in the next several years, three potential candidates for governor found ways to inject into the forum their views on what needs to be tackled by the next administration after Gov. Steve Beshear finishes his final term in 2015.

Edelen said the biggest impediment to economic growth facing Kentucky is the “absence of a skilled workforce.” He pointed to Toyota, which has established its own advanced manufacturing academy to train future workers because school districts can’t afford to. At the same time, he told the audience his office has found waste and graft among superintendents, such as the former Dayton Independent leader accused of improperly spending $250,000.

But Edelen didn’t call for additional revenue. Instead, as he told Pure Politics after the Commerce Lexington policy luncheon, he wants to see state lawmakers change the tax code so it grows with the economy. But he said he hasn’t seen the evidence that will happen in the 2014 session.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner James Comer flagged his concern about state spending. Specifically, he called Beshear’s decision to expand Medicaid to 308,000 more low-income Kentuckians “noble” but questioned how it would be paid for.

When Attorney General Jack Conway was asked about what he’s doing to reach out to young people, Conway cited two issues: finding ways in the future to keep college tuition down and reaching out to the next generation to steer them away from prescription pill abuse.

Conway, a Democrat who is also strongly considering the governor’s race, has spoken at schools around the state to warn students about the ravaging effects of prescription pain pill abuse.

“My thought: We’ve lost a generation, let’s go to the next one,” he said.

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