Candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the state’s Lieutenant Governor appeared on Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight on KET. Here’s a recap of what contenders Rodney Coffey, KC Crosbie, Jenean Hampton, and State Sen. Chris McDaniel said about themselves and the critical issues they see facing the commonwealth.
Retired law enforcement officer Rodney Coffey is running on the ticket with Will T. Scott. Coffey worked 25 years in public safety including serving as Menifee County Sheriff for 16 years. He was named the state’s Sheriff of the Year in 2003. He is a veteran of the U.S. Navy Reverses where he did six years of active and two years of inactive duty. Coffey spent 14 years with the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association as a board member and president. If elected, Coffey says he would also serve as secretary of the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet in a Scott Administration.
Small business owner KC Crosbie is the lieutenant governor candidate with Hal Heiner. After graduating from the University of Kentucky, Crosbie worked for a Fortune 50 health care company for 18 years. She left that job in 2013 to start her own medical supply business in Lexington. Crosbie served three terms on the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government City Council, and made an unsuccessful bid for Kentucky Treasurer in 2011. She is Finance Chair for the Republican Party of Kentucky and she is the National Committeewoman from Kentucky for the Republican National Committee.
Matt Bevin’s running mate is Bowling Green businesswoman Jenean Hampton. She is a native of Detroit and worked for General Motors while earning an industrial engineering degree. Hampton served seven years in the U.S. Air Force where she was a computer systems officer and was deployed to Operation Desert Storm. Hampton worked 19 years in the corrugated packaging industry in management and sales jobs for companies including Weyerhaeuser and International Paper Company. If elected, Hampton says she would act as an entrepreneurial ambassador to cultivate a climate that lures businesses to the commonwealth.
Chris McDaniel represents the 23rd State Senate District in Kenton County and is seeking the lieutenant governor’s office under James Comer. The Covington native attended The Citadel and served for four years as a U.S. Army infantry officer. After his military career, McDaniel returned to northern Kentucky where he worked for and later bought his family’s concrete construction company. He was elected to the state Senate in 2012 and serves as the chair of the chamber’s appropriations and revenue committee. McDaniel says if elected, he would also serve as secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet.
Jobs and the Economy
Crosbie, Hampton, and McDaniel say passing right-to-work legislation would be a top priority for their respective administrations. “We have got to pass that legislation so that we can tell business that we are open for business, that we want them here” McDaniel says. “We would get that accomplished in our first legislation session.”
Hampton argues that right to work is not anti-union and that advocates need to do a better job educating the public on the issue. In addition to implementing right to work, Hampton says Kentucky must also fix its ailing state pension program. She contends that limits job growth because prospective businesses won’t locate here out of a fear they’ll face higher taxes to help pay off the unfunded liabilities in the retirement systems.
Crosbie criticizes Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) and Attorney General Jack Conway (a Democratic candidate for governor) for resisting right to work efforts. She adds that tax reform is another crucial element to job growth in the state. She says the entire system needs a complete overhaul to lower rates for small business owners as well as for individuals.
Coffey says that he and Will T. Scott would take a different approach to boosting the state’s economy. Instead of focusing on right to work, Coffey says they want to lower the corporate tax rate by a quarter of a percent each year over the next four years. To ensure that new businesses have a reliable workforce, Coffey says the state must solve its drug abuse epidemic. They advocate treatment and job training for low-level drug offenders. And finally, he says Kentucky must fight federal environmental regulations that he contends hurt the coal industry.
“One of the reasons that people want to come to Kentucky is we have low energy [costs],” Coffey says, “and without coal we don’t have low energy… and it’s going to continue to be harder and harder to compete.”
Clean Power Regulations
All of the candidates say their administrations would fight the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gasses emitted by new and existing power plants. A draft rule from EPA would require individual states to develop plans to lower carbon dioxide emissions within their state boundaries. States that don’t submit their own proposal would have to implement a reduction plan mandated by the EPA.
“Asking us to design our own plan is kind of like asking a condemned man to weave his own noose,” Hampton says of why a Bevin administration would not submit a reduction plan for Kentucky. “The EPA has heaped regulation upon Kentucky that doesn’t make sense for Kentucky and Matt Bevin is committed to asserting state’s rights.”
Coffey, Crosbie, and McDaniel also said their administrations would not submit a state plan. McDaniel argues the science behind the greenhouse gas problem “still has a long way to go.” He notes that James Comer fought the federal government over allowing hemp seeds into the country. McDaniel says Comer won that fight and would win the coal fight as well.
Crosbie says the regulations are hurting Kentucky families and coal-producing communities. She says Hal Heiner would build a coalition of governors from other coal-dependent states to fight the environmental rules. And Coffey says more needs to be done with clean coal technology. He also fears the EPA will turn next to hurting Kentucky farmers with possible new water quality regulations.
The theme of Washington’s overregulation echoed in the lieutenant governor candidates’ discussion of education policy. The four Republicans said they would work to repeal the Common Core curriculum standards, which they deem as federal overreach into public school education.
“We don’t need the federal government coming in [and] telling us how to educate our Kentucky children,” Crosbie says. “There do need to be standards in education and Kentuckians can determine what standards are best for their kids.”
The candidates also agree the state should allow charter schools as an educational alternative for parents.
Finally McDaniel touts a Comer campaign plan to give college students who attend Kentucky schools a tax credit which would in effect set the cost of a four-year degree at the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky at $20,000, or $15,000 at one of the state’s regional universities. McDaniel says they would also invest in performance bonuses for high school science, math, and technology teachers.
The Pension Problem
One issue on which the candidates disagree is how to best resolve the looming multi-billion dollar shortfall in the state pension systems for teacher and public employees. McDaniel advocates for an outside audit of the systems and better oversight of their management. He also argues for privatizing the systems to help ensure better rates of return on those investments.
Coffey says he and Will T. Scott are against privatizing state pensions. Instead Scott supports passage of a constitutional amendment to allow expanded gaming in Kentucky, with proceeds going to shore up the state retirement programs. (Coffey acknowledges that he personally opposes gambling, but says he would support Scott’s plan.)
Hampton responds that gambling is not the answer to the state’s financial woes. She recalls how casino interests promoted gambling as a way to rescue her hometown of Detroit, but says the city still went bankrupt even with expanded gaming. Hampton says Kentucky’s pensions systems need more transparency, and she suggests new hires be put into a 401(k) plan.
Crosbie argues that Kentucky will be better able to fund its pension obligations once state spending is brought under control and more jobs are created. She says the commonwealth must honor its commitments to teachers but suggests moving toward a defined contribution plan for the pension system.