Sen. Perry Clark says Beshear not agressive enough, Williams has been hypocritical

06/29/2011 05:35 PM

Democratic Sen. Perry Clark — one of the more independent-minded lawmakers in Frankfort — said while he praises Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear for managing the state budget, he doesn’t believe the governor has been aggressive in pushing other reforms.

But Clark, of Louisville, reserved his toughest rhetoric for Republican Senate President David Williams — Beshear’s Republican opponent in the fall election. Clark said Williams and other Republican Senate leaders have been “hypocrites” by claiming to protect the institution of marriage even though Williams and others have been divorced.

Specifically, Clark was referring to the debate over a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2004, which Williams supported.

But Clark said this year’s governor’s race should pivot less on personalities than on policy issues. One of those, he said, is tax reform.

And his assessment of the dividing lines in Frankfort echoed the current debate raging in Washington over the national debt, in which it’s easier for lawmakers to agree on cutting spending than ending tax exemptions and closing loopholes.

“What I think has to happen … is that people have to move to compromise positions,” Clark said around 45 seconds into the video. “Cuts can come from the Senate. But no increases. It has to be a combination.”

In that case, the governor must take the lead, he said.

“Yes, absolutely. If I were him I would come together with a package that would do the whole tax reform effort,” he said just before the 1:30 mark.

On the whole, Clark said he likes Beshear and said “he’s doing a tremendous job in a very bad environment.” (4:10)

But he said the administration has missed opportunities to push for necessary reforms, such as tax code changes.

“I don’t think (he’s been) aggressive enough. I think sometimes we play politics because people like the sound — we think they like the sound of our voices,” he said. (1:50).

Clark also took issue with Beshear telling the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to “get off our backs” during the governor’s State of the Commonwealth Address in February.

“He probably shouldn’t have even brought it up,” Clark said just after the 3 minute mark. “It was simply pandering at the time.”

Clark said coal will still be needed and used for years, but the EPA is crucial to keep the nation’s air and water clean.

But Clark, who served in the House before winning a special election to the Senate in February 2006, appeared most frustrated by the Republican Senators’ push for a bill dubbed the “21st Century Bill of Rights” that included a host of issues: superseding any law restricting the posting of the Ten Commandments, rejecting any law that mandates individuals have health insurance or allowing abortion, protecting gun ownership rights, and promoting the coal industry.

Clark said such a proposed constitutional amendment was unconstitutional on its face because it deals with more than one topic. He said it was a political ploy to use in the next election against Democrats who voted against it.

And Clark took issue with Republicans who have been divorced advocating for protecting marriage by supporting a 2004 constitutional amendment that bans gay marriage in Kentucky.

“These guys, they go through multiple marriages, and have all kinds of issues and gamble, and then they want to be morally superior?” Clark said.

“I’m talking about the whole group of them … You want me to say David Williams? Yeah, David Williams,” Clark said.

Williams divorced from his first wife in 2003. Filings from those divorce proceedings revealed Williams gambled in casinos — something Williams never denied even as he argued against expanded gambling in Kentucky.

“Sometimes when we’re honest, the truth seems very, very harsh,” Clark said.


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