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By JAMES ROBERTS
Kentucky Press Association
Three candidates are seeking the governor’s seat in November. But, while each candidate has distinct differences, all agree that the economy and, more importantly, getting Kentuckians back to work, is among the top issues facing the Bluegrass state.
The Central Kentucky News-Journal sent questionnaires to all three candidates. Below are their responses. Their answers are posted in their entirety at www.cknj.com.
Currently serving his first term as governor, Steve Beshear, whose running mate is former Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson, is a Clark County native.
According to Beshear, his father and grandfather, both Baptist ministers, instilled in him a responsibility to God and family. His mother, who found time to give back to her community while raising five children, inspired him to serve his community and state.
Beshear earned his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Kentucky. While at University of Kentucky he met his wife, Jane, to whom he has been married for more than 42 years. They have two sons, Jeff and Andy, and three grandchildren.
Before being elected governor, Beshear served as state representative, attorney general and lieutenant governor.
Following government service, Beshear returned to the private sector as an attorney and senior executive of a multistate law firm.
Beshear says jobs, education and energy are the top issues facing Kentuckians today.
“Right now, there’s no bigger issue facing the Commonwealth of Kentucky than getting our people back to work,” Beshear said. “Many families continue to struggle to regain financial security. But as governor I have implemented several initiatives that are helping turn our economy around. In fact, Kentucky’s unemployment rate has dropped in the last three consecutive months.”
Beshear says his administration is dedicated to giving businesses the tools they need to be successful, such as modernizing development incentives. Passed in 2009, the initiative has led 350 companies to invest more than $3.4 billion and creating and retaining thousands of jobs, Beshear said.
Beshear said Kentucky needs long-term solutions to the economic problems. Among the solutions, he said, is investment in people.
Despite nine budget shortfalls in three years, Beshear says he always protected the SEEK formula, which provides basic funding for public schools. That, plus joining a national effort to develop a set of academic standards, Beshear said, led to Kentucky being ranked 19 on Education Week’s 2011 Quality Counts report.
Beshear’s administration also fought to expand higher education opportunities, securing a $50 million bond to ensure student loans remained available to Kentuckians.
On the issue of energy, Beshear cites independent studies that predict the demand for power in Kentucky will grow 40 percent by 2025.
“For our state to meet this increasing need for energy, it was critical that we act now,” he said. “I unveiled my administration’s seven-point, comprehensive energy strategy, called ‘Intelligent Energy Choices for Kentucky’s Future,’ in November 2008. The ambitious plan we put forth, through those seven strategies, increases our energy production, reduces carbon emissions, ensures reasonable energy costs and creates jobs by fostering high-tech energy innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Beshear says he has also implemented programs that seek to increase the state’s use of renewable energies.
Beshear says Kentuckians should vote for him because he has proven that he will govern the state with the same small town values he learned growing up in Dawson Springs.
He says he has also proven that he is a responsible leader, cutting more than $1 billion in spending during the recession and made state government leaner and more efficient.
“I have worked across party lines on our state’s long-term challenges, such as streamlining Kentucky’s penal code, reforming the public employees’ pension system and modernizing the unemployment insurance system,” Beshear said. “Earlier this year, I brought both parties together to shift Kentucky’s Medicaid program to the managed-care delivery model, which will save critical taxpayer dollars, streamline services, improve care and health outcomes and create nearly 550 jobs.”
Born in Carlisle, Ky., Gatewood Galbraith moved to Lexington with his family in 1959. His father owned a service station/garage and his mother was a housewife. He has six brothers and sisters.
Galbraith graduated from Lafayette High School in 1965, was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1966 and worked a variety of jobs before deciding to go back to school and become an attorney. He graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1974, and UK law school in 1977.
“In 1971 I was 24 years old and a milkman when I decided to go to school, become an attorney, become governor and lift Kentucky out of poverty,” Galbraith said. “I have gotten up every morning for the past 40 years to do that.”
Galbraith began his law practice in 1981, concentrating on criminal defense and serious personal injury.
Galbraith has three children and two grandchildren.
His running mate is Dea Riley.
Restoring trust and integrity in government is the top issue facing Kentucky.
“So many good people won’t even take part in the process because it is so corrupt and distasteful,” Galbraith said. “We need well-intentioned and honorable people to take part to make the system work. Otherwise it will continue to shred every decent effort to advance the people’s interests. We can do this by making transparency and honesty the hallmarks of our administration.”
Jobs and the economy are also among the top issues facing the state, Galbraith said.
“Jobs and the economy are all tied into education, so I propose the ‘Commonwealth Incentive.’ I believe that each high school graduate should get a $5,000 voucher for books, tuition and fees to any institution within Kentucky that can train them for employment, whether it be college, vocational school or workplace training.”
Galbraith said the state must move past what he calls a “narrow view of higher education.”
“Our C and D students deserve the opportunity to be trained into employability also,” he said. “This plan should inspire lots of students in many poorer counties to consider efforts to continue their education after high school and it should attract many vocational schools and worker training programs to locate in Kentucky because it would be a target-rich environment for students to train, especially for new and emerging industries.”
The third most pressing issue, Galbraith said, is energy and the environment.
“We are against Mountain Top Removal, but we are not against coal,” he said. “MTR is simply too destructive a method for mining. It destroys homesteads and waterways of other property owners. It must be stopped and coal mined in more traditional forms. Also we must look to bio-fuels development and alternative energies. Everything should be set on the table.”
Galbraith said voters should elect him because state government is dysfunctional, and “rapid party partisanship” is the main reason.
“My opponents are both products of the parties and are therefore unable to disengage from that partisanship long enough to work with the other side to get the job done,” he said. “Dea and I are totally Independents. We have no party affiliation whatsoever. We don’t care who gets credit for doing what is right on behalf of the people.
“We are not asking people to renounce their party or vote for the dreaded other party. Keep your senators and representatives but put an independent governor at the top. And remember this - If I was going to lie to you, I would already have been elected.”
A state senator since 1987 and current Kentucky Senate president, David Williams is a graduate of the University of Kentucky and earned his law degree from the University of Louisville.
Williams, a resident of Burkesville, served as a state representative from 1985 to 1986.
Williams and his wife, Robyn Edmonds Williams, have two children.
His running mate is Richie Farmer, who is currently serving as state agriculture commissioner.
The top issue facing Kentucky is the lack of jobs.
“The state is facing an unemployment crisis,” Williams said. “We have near 10 percent unemployment, and near 20 percent ‘under’ employment, adding in people who are working part-time but would like to be working full time.”
Creating and retaining jobs starts with tax reform, Williams said, specifically eliminating the state’s income taxes.
“I want to form an expert panel to redesign our tax code without the productivity taxes that drive jobs to other states,” he said. “I also want to enact a series of tax relief ‘jumpstarts’ to get our economy moving in the short term while the panel is writing a new tax code. One of the ‘jumpstarts’ is the elimination of the state’s portion of the vehicle tax that all Kentucky families pay.”
Another top issue is health care, Williams said, and that “Gov. Beshear refuses to fight the Obama administration’s unconstitutional health care law in court.”
Williams said he will challenge “Obamacare.”
“I also think it will destroy some rural hospitals, costing us jobs and medical access,” he said. “The Kentucky Hospital Association says it will cost state hospitals $1.2 billion eventually, and estimates are it will add 300,000 new people to the state’s Medicaid rolls - we already have a budget problem in Medicaid under existing numbers. I’m ready to fight this law; Gov. Beshear and [Attorney General] Jack Conway apparently support it.”
Williams also proposes utilizing the state’s coal reserves to drive down energy costs, open the doors for nuclear power, reform the state’s public pension and unemployment insurance systems and reform the education system.
“I also have a plan for education that includes rewarding teachers for better performance, allowing voluntary charter schools, and continuing the focus we’ve started in the State Senate and helping children excel in the core curriculum areas necessary for success - reading, math, and science.”
Williams said he will also fight for pro-life legislation.
“I believe every unborn child deserves a chance to live, to learn, and to prosper in Kentucky.”
Williams said voters should cast their ballots for the Williams/Farmer ticket because they have a clear platform, which is available at www.williamsfarmer.com.
“This race should be about the future, and voters should hold us to high standards when it comes to putting forth our ideas and agenda to solve problems,” Williams said. “I’ve put my ideas on paper and on the Internet for anyone to see. I’ve attended dozens of forums and debates and will take a question from anyone. Where is the governor? He’s run a campaign devoid of new ideas to really improve people’s lives in Kentucky. Voters deserved a robust debate about the future, but they didn’t get it from Gov. Beshear.
“I urge Kentuckians to expect more from their leadership and elect someone with a real plan to bring opportunity to every corner of the state.”