Saturday, February 24, 2007

Conservative Edge Online Debate

We sent four questions to each of the three Republican Candidates for Governor. They were not the same four questions, but similar and customized slightly based on each candidates established rhetoric. Now we bring those answers - unfiltered - directly to you. Feel free to post your comments and thoughts as these three candidates give us thier vision for Kentucky's future.

We do ask that you keep the debate civil, and regardless of whether you agree or disagree with any of these three leaders, that you remember that they have taken upon themselves the responsibility to offer to Kentucky their own vision of tomorrow. Being a candidate is a tough job and we appreciate the step toward public service that these two men and one woman are making. We also thank them for taking the time out of their busy campaign schedules to answer these questions. Feel free to comment, but keep it on the issues and debate away.

Gov. Ernie Fletcher

What direction/vision will you establish for the Commonwealth in asecond 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Right Sentiment, Wrong Support

This editorial is correct. Supporting Ford is imperative. However, Governor Fletcher’s Fordfare is unnecessary. Simply cease taxing unprofitable businesses.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

State support for Ford Motor Co. and its Louisville operations continues to move through the General Assembly, with only the occasional whine from a rural legislator who thinks House Bill 536 is just more evidence that the "big city gets everything it wants."

It doesn't. In fact, Jefferson County sends a lot more money to Frankfort than it gets back. And that's as it should be. One of the reasons to have a state government is to help move resources from areas that produce a lot to those that need a lot. This is part of the social and political compact that holds Kentucky together.

On the other hand, when the state's largest city and biggest revenue creator has a real need -- full funding for an urban research university that's crucial to Louisville's economic future; a state school funding formula that doesn't hugely penalize Jefferson County Public Schools; a fair deal on road money; an occasional signature project like the downtown arena -- then state government would be both wise and fair to do something about it. One major need right now is to assure Ford that we're willing to invest in a future for that company, here in Louisville.

Since the first local assembly plant was established in 1913, Ford's presence has survived endless change in the auto industry, and within the company itself: the transition from Model T to Model A, the conversion of assembly lines to wartime use in 1918-19 and 1942-45, successive moves to bigger plant locations, addition of truck assembly, changeover from LTDs to Rangers and Bronco IIs and Explorers.

Ford's presence in Louisville has survived disasters and disappointments, both natural and corporate, like the 1937 flood and the Edsel. It will survive the STAR air toxics reduction program that is necessary to protect local citizens' health.. The point is to preserve Ford's presence, and the enormous employment and tax base it creates. That's what HB 536 is all about. Under its provisions, Kentucky's taxpayers could pick up 75 percent of the tab if Ford spends at least $200 million to improve its Louisville facilities. Those tax-credit incentives could be offered to any existing employer in the state, but the immediate goal is to make sure nearly 8,000 Ford jobs at the two Jefferson County plants stay put.

Mark Fields, Ford's president of the Americas, recently told The Associated Press, "It concerns me that too many people downplay the importance of the homegrown auto industry."

Not here they don't.

Brett Hall Compliments Harper, Questions Fletcher & Northup

Republicans and Democrats these days find themselves engaged in contentious primaries, up and down the ballot.

Before things get out of hand, best advice both parties can follow is to get a grip and think long and hard before going nuclear.

Democrat state party leader Jerry Lundergan got all seven of his party’s gubernatorial campaigns to sign the equivalent of a Ronald Reagan 11th Commandment. Nice work.

Time will tell if it works, but at least everyone’s on notice that they understand the consequences of their actions, IF they do choose to load their guns with live ammo.

On the GOP side, Anne Northup is trying to find 50 ways to say “Ernie can’t win.” The ex-congresswoman from Louisville got a tepid response from party faithful at last week's Franklin County Lincoln Day Dinner as she delivered this message.

Meanwhile, the incumbent governor travels the Great Commonwealth announcing highway projects and cutting ribbons on new projects with the energy of a happy warrior. Fletcher’s apparent strategy is to good naturedly confront his opponents with his record of accomplishment and a challenge for them to propose something better.

Only Billy Harper has stepped forward to offer something, a plan to improve public schools by spending more money with corresponding accountability on the part of educators. Revolutionary? Maybe not, but Harper has his sincerity going for him. Something voters tend to favor over glibness and in-your-face posturing.

The Fourth Horseman?

From Lexington Herald-Leader:

President Bush will visit Kentucky early next month to attend an event raising money for Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign, the White House said Friday. The March 2 event at a downtown hotel also will benefit the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

Democrats seized control of the Senate by the slimmest of margins after last year’s election, preventing McConnell from becoming Senate majority leader. McConnell, the Senate minority leader, has been an unwavering Bush supporter on the Iraq war and the president’s domestic policies. McConnell has said he’ll seek a fifth term next year. No Democrat has announced plans to challenge him.

McConnell has been the chief architect of the Republican rise to power in Kentucky in recent years. Republicans hold both of Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seats, four of the six U.S. House seats, the governorship and control the state Senate. A recent Bluegrass Poll published in The Courier-Journal of Louisville showed that about half of Kentuckians think McConnell should oppose a plan to send more American troops to Iraq. Bush easily carried Kentucky in winning the White House in 2000 and 2004.

President Bush supports McConnell. Does President Bush support Northup?

Is President Bush part of the
Vast McConnell Wing conspiracy?
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