Gubernatorial forum with Williams, Moffett and Gatewood covers health, tax and education issues

01/21/2011 09:23 AM

(UPDATED WITH VIDEO CLIPS) Republican candidates for governor David Williams and Phil Moffett and independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith are making their first appearance of the 2011 governor’s race at the Kentucky Press Association meeting in Lousiville, which started at 9 a.m.

Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear did not attend. Instead, he presented a community block grant check for a hospice in Maysville and later participated in a groundbreaking ceremony in Pikeville.

Here are the highlights of the forum:

Opening statements:

Williams: Took shots at Beshear. He “doesn’t have an agenda.” “He presented no proposals – no suggestions for change.”

Moffett: Said Beshear and Williams are both “responsible” for changes.

He said those in power have allowed debt to mount and government to expand and specifically identified Williams, although not by name. “These are not the actions of a conservative. These are the actions of a ruling class – a nanny state … a liberal.”

Galbraith: Said he’s been called a perennial candidate. “Well, Kentucky’s got perennial problems.”

“If I were going to lie to you, I’d already been elected.”

On tax reform:

Williams touted his plan for an independent tax commission.

“There needs to be a tax. It needs to be revenue neutral,” Williams said.

Moffett agreed that it needs to be revenue neutral.He said he wants to replace all taxes — income and others — with a single sales tax rate on products and services.

Galbraith said he would tackle the issue because he’s not “afraid” and limited by the political parties.

Williams said Democrats have been the obstacle to tax reform because they want to have a “redistribution of wealth.”

On health care:

Williams said a governor should promote public health and wellness, including to address child obesity.He touted his previous concern about the effect of tobacco.

Moffett said public education on health issues is key.

Galbraith said the state must open up the insurance industry to more competition. Kentucky also has gotten away from fully funding county health agencies to the detriment of the state.

Following up on the tobacco  issue, moderator Al Cross, asked about a statewide smoking ban.

Moffett said he doesn’t have a problem with a government banning smoking in government buildings — but not private businesses.

“I believe second hand smoke has been overblown, pun intended,” Moffett said.

Galbraith agreed with Moffett that a statewide ban would be an invasion of private property.

He likened smoking to the last “voluntary form of suicide.”

Williams: I don’t believe smoking or second hand smoke is a joke.

He said waiters and waitresses don’t have a choice if patrons can smoke in the establishment and should be protected.

While Galbraith said technology could disperse that smoke, Williams said it would be “an invasion of privacy” to require businesses to have such machines.

On corrections reform:

Galbraith said he supports the package of reforms proposed by a task force to revamp the corrections sysetm.

Williams wouldn’t commit to voting for the proposed legislation until it’s finalized.

“It is the ethical thing to do, to put money in treatment,” Williams said. He later added that, in concept, he agrees with the increased monitoring an supervision of parolees and people on probation.

Moffett said such a proposal represents “just a shifting of expenses.” He endorsed a proposal offered by Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, that would require drug treatment for anyone seeking to get public assistance.

Williams said the problem would be that the proposed testing in Napier’s bill wouldn’t deal with those who are addicted to prescription drugs, which remains a problem.

How should expanded gaming be resolved:

Williams: It’s being resolved through elections. “Personally, I’m not going to advance the cause of expanded gaming.” Williams said he wouldn’t support the expansion of gambling but if it happens it should be through a constitutional amendment that must be approved by voters.

“I would not support it,” he said.

Moffett: He said, if elected, he would want to take up a tax reform plan before moving forward with a constitutional amendment on gambling.

Galbraith: “I don’t want to give up money to out-of-state,,” he said. “I want it to come here.” Galbraith said “it is necessary” for the issue to be resolved with a constitutional amendment.

Does Kentucky need additional revenue?

Moffett: The only time the state needs additional revenue is when the economy grows to provide it.

Galbraith: No. “We’re hemorrhaging.” He said corruption in government and padding the state’s payroll is the problem, not revenue.

Williams: “This state does not need additional revenue.” Instead it needs a tax system to bolster the economy and create jobs.

What role should community colleges play in Kentucky?

Galbraith: Kentucky is heading toward an “$8-an-hour economy.” He said workers should be trained to become employable. And he said the high salary of KCTCS President Michael McCall should be slashed.

Williams: The governor should encourage technical and community college education. He said money could be diverted to the system by cutting down on remedial education programs. That has to happen in the K-12 school system.

Moffett: Kentucky needs to add more trade schools in Kentucky for electricians and plumbers.

Galbraith said he would freeze tuition “today.” But he said community colleges are adequately funded.

Moffett added that education is adequately funded.

Government spending issues?

Williams responded to a question that raised the issues of spending by Williams’ running mate Richie Farmer. Farmer, the agriculture commissioner, spent about $10,000 for a conference trip to the Virgin Islands  and approved the purchase of 27 new vehicles for ag department employees.

Farmer “has operated the ag agency” and reduced spending and employees, Williams said. The purchase of vehicles was at the advice of his fleet manager, Williams added.

How can the state keep Kentucky college grads in Kentucky?

Williams: The tax structure must encourage job creation to keep graduates here. “I also think we need to take a look at the rigor in college,” he said.

Moffett: Also said the tax code will allow more Kentucky grads to stay put. “When we do that, we’ll employ more graduates from UK and U of L and all the other colleges.”

Galbraith: Provide a $5,000 voucher for students to buy books. But he also said an “attitude change” and change in the tax structure to encourage job creation is necessary.

Williams added that Kentucky should be worried about recruiting people from out of state as well.“A targeted” tax plan will accomplish it, he said.

Moffett responded that “the free market will take care of that” — not a targeted approach for a tax plan.

Williams said he wasn’t talking about economic incentives that Beshear has touted. He said business owners have told him those incentives have nothing to do with whether companies relocate.

Were the incentives to bring Toyota ill-conceived?

Galbraith: At the time, he said he thought it was wrong. But he questioned where it stops.

Williams: It wasn’t wrong, but then-Gov. Martha Layne Collins “should have taken a broader approach.” He said the economic development cabinet should be “de-politicized.”

Moffett: It was the right thing to do because she was “playing the game” as it was. But Kentucky must get away from the incentives, he said.

After a follow-up, Moffett said the ultimate incentive — not a hand-out — is making the tax system more attractive to businesses, allowing them to keep more profits.

Galbraith: Businesses “need relief.” But economic incentives have gotten out of control.

Williams: Agreed with Galbraith. He said the economic development cabinet has gotten out of control. He took a shot at Beshear for politicizing the process by using the economic development to make announcements about potential job creation.

Moffett: “Any time you put business taxes in place,” you punish the consumer because those costs are passed on.

Access to broadband?

Williams: Broadband is a utility. The market will drive the expansion of broadband but local governments should make that a focus. “

Moffett: It is more available in urban areas but that is a choice you make to live in a rural area. It will come to rural areas eventually as the market dictates, he said.

Galbraith: Agreed with Williams that the local governments should make that a focus. But he said the state already has shoved a lot of “budget busters” including higher jail costs upon the counties.

What should the state do for the homeless?

Galbraith: There is no answer to that unless we revive the economy.

From left, Republican David Williams, Republican Phil Moffett and independent Gatewood Galbraith participated in the Jan. 21 gubernatorial forum at the Kentucky Press Association meeting in Louisville.

Williams: We must make sure we have social services in place, but they should be “transitional” services to get people “on the road to recovery.”

Moffett: Charities and churches do a better job for the homeless than government does.

Should the state inform people downstream from strip mines that a permit has been requested?

Galbraith: Yes.

Williams: Said he believed there is a public notice already in place when water quality is at issue.

Moffett: It should.

What’s the appropriate relationship between government and public universities?

Williams: Education should be the No. 1 priority of any governor. Choosing of university presidents is one of the most important jobs of a board of trustees or regents, which the governor appoints. The governor should be separated from selecting presidents, though,. But he questioned the role of the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Moffett: Said he wants to understand more from colleges and universities why their costs go up higher than other agencies. It is a big part of our budget and it should be. But I have to understand why those costs are growing so much faster than standard industries are.

Galbraith: I think it’s a great benefit that we’ll finally get rid of the “unbridled ego” of UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. He said state Auditor Crit Luallen should review the relationship between public universities and private companies. He said Kentucky should get away from the Bucks for Brains program that provides state money to match private donations.

CLOSING STATEMENTS

Galbraith: If Williams wins, Democrats won’t work with him. An independent needs to be in charge who won’t be beholden to political parties, he said. “No party is going to have live with the legacy I leave. I’ll take the hits on the all the hard decisions.”

Moffett: “My two main opponents in this race” have allowed the state to borrow too  much, he said, referring to Williams and Beshear. He adopted the “yes, we can” phase to punctuate his points about what needs to be done in education — the same phrase Democratic President Barack Obama used in the 2008 campaign.

Williams: Kentucky is adrift. He said Beshear has “wasted three years” to change the direction of the state on issues such as the tax code and the public employee pension system.

“It’s better to light the candle than to curse the darkness,” Williams said. Only the governor can take the bold political moves necessary to move the state. He said any effort to paint him as a liberal is “laughable.”

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.

TWEETS ABOUT KENTUCKY POLITICS