Ky. Dist. 9 State House Candidates Debate Early Education, Pensions, Voting Access, More
Candidates for District 9 State Representative discussed a range of issues from early education to pensions to voting access in a debate Thursday night in Hopkinsville. The local chapter of the League of Women Voters hosted and moderated the forum. Republican Representative Myron Dossett is seeking re-election against Democratic social worker Will Coleman.
Coleman said he served in the U.S. Army and worked in local factories before pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. He said he’s running because he wants to help children in the community. The education system is the most important agenda item, he said, and added that it’s in trouble. He said he would support funding for more preschool access. Today’s jobs increasingly require more skills, he said, and the state needs to invest in young people. “We should never look at cutting education. Ever.” The pension system shouldn’t be “on the chopping block,” Coleman said, adding that it can’t be taken away from state workers. He said young people won’t want those jobs if there are no benefits.
On early voting access, Coleman said it would give more people a chance. He said people need to be encouraged rather than discouraged to vote and technicalities involving names is not a reason to purge voter rolls.
He supports increasing the minimum wage and proposed two minimum wages: one for young people and one for adults. He said he believes health care is a right. To meet economic development needs and rural broadband access, Coleman said Kentucky should be open to new forms of revenue, including medical marijuana. He said the greatest challenge facing the commonwealth is finding more revenue.
Myron Dossett said he’s running for re-election to serve as someone who listens to constituents. He wants to create a better environment for the next generation and said the pension issue was due to past inaction and incompetence. The pension system needs to be fully funded, he said, or there will be “unbearable burden” on children and grandchildren. Funding more early education efforts such as preschool for everyone, he said, depends on addressing funding issues with the pension system and Medicaid. Tax reform and population growth, he suggested, are ways to address that.
Dossett said he’s proud that KRS and TRS were fully-funded for the first time in more than 20 years in the past legislative session. It can’t be a one-time deal, he said, but needs to be continued biannually. He said he agrees with Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to enact work requirements for workers. “One of the few things that I agreed with Governor Bevin on was this plan: which able-bodied workers - not single mothers and children - only those who could work - would pay a small portion as a premium: $20 a month… If someone is able to work, $20 a month is a very small insurance premium for them to pay.”
State officials said in August the current Medicaid program has a nearly $300 million shortfall over the next two years. The Bevin administration has proposed reducing the number of Medicaid recipients and potential cuts to dental, vision and other services. Premium payments, along with required work or volunteer hours have also been proposed as part of the changes.
On early voting, Dossett said a conversation needs to be had, but noted a concern for county clerks and costs placed on local governments to keep voting booths open. He added that it’s up to parents to teach children to read and be informed so they can become part of the process. On purging voter rolls, Dossett said he wants to make sure people voting are actually residents.
On minimum wage, Dossett said businesses need to be encouraged to locate in Kentucky. He doesn’t want to take minimum away, but rather create jobs to get people working as full-time employees. He stressed the need for further tax reform, which he said started with lowering income tax and bringing in sales tax in a move towards Tennessee’s model. To grow the economy, he said, the population needs to grow.
District 9 represents parts of Hopkins and Christian counties.