Struggling coal pensions at center of debate between Gray and Paul in Owensboro

10/28/2016 01:27 PM

OWENSBORO – Just three days before their one and only debate, U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Democratic Challenger Jim Gray made a rare appearance together at the Red, White and Blue political forum in Owensboro on a chilly Thursday afternoon with the main topic of their speeches being the state of the struggling coal industry and its effect on miners benefits.

In addressing the large outdoor crowd, Gray talked about how the late U.S. Sen. Wendell Ford, an Owensboro native, might have described Paul.

“A presidential candidate without a campaign, an eye doctor without patients, a tea partier without a real party, and as a transplanted Texan, who was elected to represent the people of Kentucky, but didn’t,” Gray said.

Gray, went on the offensive criticizing Paul for not supporting a bill which would prop up pensions of United Mine Workers of America members using money from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, pointing out how a former coal miner, Frankie Clayton, who was in attendance at the event, got a letter last week stating that he was losing his heath care benefits.

“Sen. Paul has had a chance to rectify that situation, but he says that he is against the Miner’s Protection Act,” Gray said. “The Miners Protection Act which would provide benefits and extended health care for these coal miners. Now that’s not where Wendell Ford would have been. Wendell Ford would have been with Frankie Clayton.”

Paul has acknowledged that he wouldn’t vote for the bill, saying that he liked the concept but thought that a solution should help all miner pensions, not just those of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) union.

The union’s pension fund dwindled as the number of coal miners employed in the country and represented by the union has gone down. The last UMWA mine in Kentucky closed in 2014.

Paul told the crowd that the best solution for the miner pension problem is for the government to stop hurting the coal industry.

“The war on coal has killed the coal industry,” Paul said. “Why are the pension funds short? It’s because Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama killed the coal industry. They can’t contribute to the pension because of the war on coal.”

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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