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Major-Party Candidates For Governor Solidify Positions in Debate

J. Tyler Franklin/Louisville Public Media

  In the second of four televised debates, the two major party candidates for governor on Tuesday night reminded voters of their positions on key issues such as state pensions, right-to-work legislation and casino gambling.

Independent candidate Drew Curtis did not participate in the debate at Centre College in Danville because, according to organizers, he did not have enough would-be votes in a public opinion poll.

In the most quotable line of the debate, Louisville businessman and Republican nominee Matt Bevin said he wanted to “un-constipate Frankfort” by making the state more business-friendly.

“These jobs will come when we pass right-to-work legislation, comprehensive tax reform, tort reform and fix our pension crisis. If we don’t fix these things, the jobs won’t come, the retirement savings won’t come,” Bevin said.

Bevin said companies looking to expand or relocate pass over Kentucky because it doesn’t have a right-to-work law — which would ban requirements on workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment — on the books.

Conway called right-to-work laws a “solution looking for a problem” and said state leaders should instead work to improve workforce education.

“What we need to do is focus on workforce development, training workers for these good-paying jobs in advanced manufacturing in IT,” Conway said.

The candidates both addressed the possibility of drug testing welfare recipients. Bevin said that while the state can’t indiscriminately drug test people, it should if it has probable cause.

“Why should people that are getting everything from those who are working every day and being randomly drug tested have no expectation of them on a similar front,” Bevin said.

Conway, who posed the question about drug testing to Bevin, said such a policy would be expensive and unconstitutional if the state didn’t establish probable cause for the tests.

“I would hope we would stop with spending all this government money on unconstitutional things,” Conway said.

Conway has also said he supports drug testing some welfare recipients.

Conway said the legislature should look into setting up a dedicated stream of revenue for the state’s ailing pension system and said Kentuckians should vote on whether to allow casino gambling.

Bevin said gambling isn’t the solution to the state’s financial problems.

“I do not in any way, shape or form support casino gambling, and frankly, there’s no political will for it in this state,” Bevin said.

Gov. Steve Beshear made expanded gambling a priority during both of his gubernatorial runs, though the policy hasn’t gained traction in the legislature.

Notably, debate moderator Scott Reynolds of WAVE-3 TV in Louisville did not ask the candidates how they would pay for the expanded Medicaid system. The state will assume a portion of the cost of the expansion — which occurred as part of the federal Affordable Care Act — starting in 2017.

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Ryland Barton is the Managing Editor for Collaboratives for Kentucky Public Radio, a group of public radio stations including WKMS, WFPL in Louisville, WEKU in Richmond and WKYU in Bowling Green. A native of Lexington, Ryland most recently served as the Capitol Reporter for Kentucky Public Radio. He has covered politics and state government for NPR member stations KWBU in Waco and KUT in Austin.
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