Thursday, March 1, 2007

Dissecting Conservative Edge’s Debate

Gov. Ernie Fletcher

What direction/vision will you establish for the Commonwealth in a second term?

I intend to continue the progress that the commonwealth has seen in the first term of my administration. My administration has created a culture of life that provides further protection of all children, born and unborn. We confronted a $1 billion deficit and generated an over $700 million surplus through efficient management. We have reduced the number of state workers by over 2,000 through attrition only.

We have dedicated the surplus to building the rainy day fund to its highest level in the history of the commonwealth, sound fiscal management that has been recognized by Wall Street, allowing the state to refinance bonds and generate additional funds to fund state needs. We have cut personal and corporate income taxes. When I came to office the state was in a financial crisis. Education funding had flatlined for the last ten years because a substantial portion of every new dollar generated had to be dedicated to the skyrocketing costs of Medicaid. We have cleaned up this mess by reforming Medicaid, cutting taxes and running government efficiently, and now have the state in a position to build for the future.

There is work to be done to make higher education affordable for Kentuckians and continue to move healthcare in the state to a more transparent and market-based system, which I mentioned in the State of the Commonwealth and will discuss in the coming months.

Progress? Ethics scandal. Plea bargain. Political infighting. Excessive spending. What would you label failure?

Education funding? Throwing money toward a problem is not an answer.

How can we improve our education system? Are there ways that you plan to make higher education a priority and easier to attain for young people?

Education is a priority of the Fletcher administration. Unlike many politicians that make this claim, we've put our money where our mouth is. Thanks to the more stable financial foundation we have created, we have been able to provide record funding to education.

P-12 education funding is receiving record increases after a decade of flat funding. This revenue has not just gone blindly into the system, but to establish better tools of accountability. We have invested in the technology necessary to create a statewide system of longitudinal tracking, so we track in real time student performance, available on the web, and identify a student that needs intervention before it's too late. I have advocated directing enhanced compensation to teachers that volunteer to teach subjects of critical need or at low-performing schools, and will continue my efforts to make Kentucky a place where good teachers want to work.

Postsecondary education base funding has seen a 20% average annual increase during this administration compared to the previous eight years. Post secondary education capital funding has received a 120% average annual increase over the previous eight years, while maintaining a responsible debt level for the state, below 6% of revenues. Despite these funding increases, tuition continues to rise. In my State of the Commonwealth speech, I called for the creation of a Kentucky Covenant, a pact with Kentucky students that if they work hard, earn good grades and take rigorous courses, that we will guarantee an affordable college education in this state regardless of financial means. Using part of the reserve of the surplus, we can build a program to accomplish this goal.

Education is a priority? You mean merit hiring was a priority. Money is not an answer. Where is his school choice policy?

Will you support an amendment to expand gambling in Kentucky?

As I have consistently stated in the past, I will not advocate an amendment to expand casino gambling. Should the legislature choose to offer the issue to the voters, I would support allowing the voters to decide this issue. I would not vote for the amendment. Further, I do not believe it would have a significant positive economic impact on our state.

Finally, a correct answer. Casino gambling is not a magical solution.

Are you open to repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax?

We cut income taxes for 78% of working Kentuckians. We cut the corporate income tax from 8.25% to 6%. We repealed the corporate licensing tax which is a tax on investment. In 2006, we reduced the AMT by $45 million. We are always looking for ways to lower taxes further.

Governor, I believe this was an answer. However, not for this question. Obviously, Fletcher opposes repealing the tax. Disgraceful!

Congresswoman Anne Northup

What is your overall vision for Kentucky’s future?

Our vision is a state government committed to honesty, an administration that does not inflate numbers and facts to cover up the truth. We believe in a state government that tackles the most serious problems, lays out a plan, considers the public’s support, and reaches consensus. Instead of spending our days in office touring the state, and paving new blacktop, Jeff and I want to solve the problems affecting Kentucky. We believe there is a better way to educate our children—because our schools lag behind. We believe there is a better way to bring health care costs down—because costs are out of control. We believe our tax burden is too high—because the current administration has imposed the AMC.

Her vision includes Fletcher losing. Her vision also includes her winning. Is that a vision?

Why should Kentuckians elect Ann Northup?

I can win in May and I can win in November, while Ernie Fletcher cannot. After strong consideration and encouragement from fellow Republicans, I decided to enter the race for Governor of Kentucky. The Republican Party deserves a nominee who will be able to spend the general election talking about the needs of our education system, not raising money for a secretive legal defense fund. The Republican Party deserves a nominee who will be able to address a real solution to the skyrocketing health insurance rates not defending investigations. The Republican Party needs a nominee and Kentucky needs a Governor who can focus the attention of the entire state on our pressing needs, not divert attention from a government besieged by scandal.

Anne wins fifty dollars. She said the secret phrase. “Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win, Fletcher can’t win.”

What will be your stance on expanded gambling?

Having voted against the lottery, I have said it would be a tough sell for me personally-- but this is an issue for the legislature.

Finally, a policy statement.

Do you think that Kentucky’s tax system needs further overhaul? (Specifically the AMT, what would you do with it and how can we restructure the tax system to encourage more job creation in Kentucky?)

I have vocally announced my support of House Bill 88 sponsored by my running mate Jeff Hoover. The AMT has provided a disincentive for small business growth and has shrunk entrepreneurial spirit in this state. The role of state government is to spur economic growth and not tax small business only to use the additional revenue to spend on pet projects, no matter how worthy they may seem. The money belongs in the pockets of the people that earn it, not the government.

Queen Anne is for the people. Unbelievable!

Businessman Billy Harper

During your campaign you have made it clear that you would eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax – how will that affect the projected surplus for Kentucky’s budget and how would you propose allocating that surplus?

Short term, the Alternative Minimum Tax will bring in less money to a government which is already spending too much. Long term, the repeal of the tax will help create more economic activity in Kentucky, which in turn will generate far more money through additional business taxes and personal income taxes from workers who now have better jobs. I would allocate the surplus only to projects that are vital to Kentucky’s future. Most important will be education and improving the state’s economy. If the program is not vital then the money should be where it belongs – with the hard working taxpayer.

Excellent answer. Tighten spending.

Why is Kentucky’s education system struggling?

It’s not that Kentucky’s education system is so poor as much as its improvements are not happening fast enough. There have been some improvements. But anyone who has read the book "Good to Great" knows that Kentucky is a good state that needs to become a great one. It is no longer acceptable for our state to settle for mediocrity. It’s now time we educate our workforce and create better jobs to keep Kentucky moving forward.

As I have stated, Kentucky education is funded. The dollars must be made to work.

Would you support an amendment to allow expanded gambling?

No. I will veto any legislation and campaign against a constitutional amendment to expand gambling in Kentucky. As a businessman, I can tell you that using gambling to fund our state’s future is like building an economy on quicksand, and I just won’t do it.

Candidates in unison…. Gambling is bad.

What quality do you bring that no other candidate has in this race and how will that quality make Kentucky a better place in four years?

I’m not a politician. I’m a businessman. We have tried the same old thing year after year, and Kentucky has made only small improvements. It’s time we start to think big in Kentucky. It’s time we do things differently. Politics as usual just won’t work anymore I’m the only candidate in this race who has created jobs and met multi-million dollar payrolls right here in Kentucky. I’m the only candidate with decades of hands-on management experience. And I’m the only candidate who has led the fight for education reform. The others in this race have only talked about these things.

I’m not a politician. I’m a leader. Politics as usual won’t work. I before E except after C. It’s the fortune cookie candidate.

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