Independent candidate for governor Drew Curtis and his plan for state pensions

06/24/2015 04:59 PM

Independent candidate for Kentucky governor Drew Curtis is an unlikely entrant into the race for governor, and the founder and operator of plans on tackling some of the state’s biggest problems without the backing of a standard political organization.

Curtis said friends encouraged him to run for the office, but he did not want to go the standard route and run as a member of either party.

“I flipped it around and I said, ‘OK, forget what people care about. What is actually important, and let’s start with there and sort of do what I do with my digital media company, which is provide context and explain why these things are the way they are,” Curtis said in an interview on Pure Politics.

The Versailles-based candidate said he thinks he can win in November against Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway and Republican investment manager Matt Bevin based on the number of untapped and politically apathetic registered non-voters in the commonwealth.

“If everybody who ever said, ‘Man, the government sucks and it’s not working for me,’ came out and voted for me, I win in a landslide. … There are enough people out there who are interested in trying something different,” he said.

Curtis says he’s unsure which candidate, Bevin or Conway, he hurts more as independent candidates generally take from the base of the controlling parties.

Describing his views as 85 percent libertarian, Curtis said he might very well cut into Bevin’s base of tea party support.

“I don’t believe the conventional wisdom, which is what if the candidate I don’t like gets accidentally elected, because especially in this race it doesn’t matter. These two guys are the same guy,” Curtis said. “They’re both haircuts with teeth. They both like to go to secret debates in West Virginia and not tell anybody about it for a month.”

In the last several statewide elections, Curtis said he voted for U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell in 2014 and for President Barack Obama in 2012, but he’s unsure if he voted for Obama in 2008.

One of the major issues Curtis has been working on and he said Kentuckians should be concerned about is the pension systems in Kentucky. Curtis said he was “shocked” to learn just how bad the problem is in the state.

“I almost quit, I kid you not, because I was like, ‘Oh my God, the state is bankrupt in 2018,’” Curtis said. (6:50)

Curtis’ plan is based on pulling a $5 billion bond, but not tapping the whole debt, instead using the bonding as a line of credit to restructure the pension debt in the state, which amounts to the billions.

“Rather than taking out $3 to $5 billion all at once and dropping it in — paying all the interest instantly. Instead, you essentially do micro-loans out of it,” he said. (9:00)

Given the uncomfortable views expressed by some state lawmakers with major pension bonding proposals, Curtis said if the lawmakers don’t act the state will be in deep trouble.

“It is an economic apocalypse,” he said.

Curtis acknowledges that his plan does not necessarily solve the problem with the pension systems, but he said “it’s better than no plan.”

There may be some concerns also with mounting billions into bonds, which the state would also have to pay back at a later date, but he said he felt the state would only have to pay what was actually bonded through the micro-loans.

And he does not feel the debt capacity for the state would be affected since the debt already exists in the form of unfunded pension liabilities.

In the end the idea amounts to hoping the state doesn’t need to tap into debt financing, but it’s there if and when the market dips.

To qualify for the ballot in November, Curtis needs to submit 5,000 signatures, which he said he is scrambling to complete as debates are already taking place without him. Curtis currently has just over 4,000 signatures.


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