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Ky. Dist. 5 State Rep. Candidates Appeal To Teachers At Local Forum

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Democratic candidate David Ramey (left) and Republican candidate Larry Elkins (right)

Candidates for Kentucky’s 5th District State Representative addressed state issues at a Tuesday forum in Murray. Democratic candidate David Ramey and Republican candidate Larry Elkins answered questions ranging from the state’s service tax to higher education funding at the forum hosted by the Murray-Calloway County Chamber of Commerce and Murray State University Town & Gown.

Service Tax

Candidates answered questions on the service tax that went into effect in July and requires businesses and nonprofits to collect sales tax on services. Ramey said the bill is terrible “all the way across the board.” He said if elected he would vote to repeal the tax as it applies to church picnics like Fancy Farm.

“Fancy Farm picnic, for example, cut a thirteen-thousand dollar check to the Kentucky revenue cabinet,” Ramey said. “That’s sad. It really is. And this was done to shift the burden from the top income to working Kentuckians.”

Elkins said there is a bill pre-filed to address the nonprofit portion of the legislation. He also said the bill’s passage two months before its implementation didn't give the business community enough time to become educated. He said he wouldn’t have voted for the bill if he was in the legislature.

Teachers and Pension Plans

Elkins said teachers should vote for him because of his record of having an open door policy in county government. Elkins served as Calloway County Judge Executive for roughly 20 years. He said pensions for teachers and other public employees need to look like retirement plans in the private sector.

“The teachers know me. The teachers can trust me. We have a legal obligation to fund their retirement plans,” Elkins said.

Ramey said that he’s the only one that is clear on his opposition to Governor Matt Bevin’s pension overhaul. He said he was in the Capitol building the day the state legislature passed the wastewater bill that the pension law was attached to. Ramey said he is endorsed by the Kentucky Education Association and called Bevin’s attacks on public education “shameful.”

Local Option Sales Tax

Both candidates support a local options sales tax. The Local Investment For Transformation or ‘LIFT’ bill would allow local voters to decide through a referendum whether they want to pay for new projects in their communities. If voters were in favor of a local option sales tax for a particular project, the community’s sales tax would increase by 1% to fund the project. The tax increase would go away once the project is completed.

Ramey said he believes the local option sales tax is good legislation but worries that it would get stuck in the state Senate after passing through the house.

“I would support the LIFT that gives the local communities the opportunity to do the things that they feel they need to do for economic development,” Ramey said. “I will tell you it’s got a tough road ahead in the state senate.”

Elkins said he supported LIFT legislation when it was first proposed. But, he said, officials might be wise to see where comprehensive tax reform is going before passing legislation like LIFT.

Higher Education

Elkins said performance-based funding is “not the best” for universities like Murray State.

In a meeting last month, some of Murray State University’s Regents said the state’s performance-funding formula, that has the state’s public universities and colleges compete for a portion of state appropriation, is “stacked against smaller schools.”

Elkins said, if elected, he will attempt to amend the program. He also said he will do everything he can to make sure that Murray State gets the funding it needs to provide educational and economic development opportunities to the community.

Ramey said the public education conversation needs to change in Kentucky. He said the model where the state cuts funding to higher education is an economic development argument. He referenced the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which offers residents two years of free community college, and asked how Kentucky is going to compete in economic development when the state is cutting higher education. Ramey said, if elected, he would “represent the ‘Blue and Gold’” of Murray State in Frankfort.

District 5 covers Calloway County and part of Trigg County. Murray State University is a major employer in this district. The midterm election is Nov. 6.

Watch the entire candidate forum here.

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