News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gov. Candidate Edelen Talks "Building Opportunities For 21st Century"

Matt Markgraf

The Kentucky Primary Elections are on Tuesday. Former state auditor and Democratic candidate for governor Adam Edelen stopped by WKMS in his last visit to west Kentucky before voters head to the polls. Matt Markgraf talks with Edelen about his top priorities and his position on some of the state's biggest issues.

Longer version

Edelen has been described as a “progressive,” but says he’s not interested in labels because “they get in the way of people working together.” He said he believes everyone should have health care, that renewable energy should be part of the economy of the future, that fully-funding education is critical and that all people should be treated equally. “We believe that to build a modern Kentucky you’ve got to reflect the tenants that support that.”

Edelen said his top priorities are to fully-fund education and having an agenda that goes beyond merely keeping the pension promise to school teachers. He said to build the opportunities of the 21st Century, the Internet needs to be available to every Kentuckian. “There are too many places in Kentucky, and lots of them in western Kentucky where we have either insufficient or spotty or nonexistent broadband coverage. And no community can grow, no company is going to locate in an area where Internet coverage is spotty at best and nonexistent at worst.” He also wants to create thousands of renewable energy jobs.

“When Governor Bevin brags about his job numbers, the issue we have in Kentucky is wage stagnation. The issue isn’t that our people aren’t working hard enough, it’s that the work they are doing doesn’t pay enough.” He said Kentucky needs a governor who will adopt policies or an agenda that allows peoples’ wages to raise.

Edelen said Kentucky must diversity its workforce to strengthen the economy. This includes in the area of energy. “Continuing a focus on low skill, low wage jobs only seeks to lock us into a trajectory that isn’t sufficient, I think, to support the dreams of our kids.” He calls himself “a renewable energy champion.” He said the reason why Kentucky is not embracing alternative energy jobs is because political leaders would “rather embrace nostalgia.” The way to create those jobs, he said, is to replace elected leaders who refuse to “embrace innovation or anything that remotely resembles the future.”

Edelen’s position on other major issues:

Pension Reform: It’s a difficult and complicated issue. Best way to deal with it is to separate understanding of the different pension funds. As Auditor, he conducted a review of KTRS and said he found it to be independent, well-run, did not use a hedge fund, did not rely on the services of a placement agent. In KTRS, teachers made their monthly contribution and Frankfort didn’t. KRS was a victim of chronic underfunding and impacted by the downtown of the economy in the Great Recession. But some of the KRS issues related to governance. “For too long, political appointees by the governor to that board were rewards for people who supported governor’s campaigns.” He said people made liberal use of placement agents and abundant investments in hedge funds. Should be more politically independent. Won’t appoint campaign contributors. They should be certified financial leaders with credibility.

Tax Loopholes: They’re not there by accident, loopholes didn’t create themselves. System collects $10 billion and excuses $12 billion. Said he would make the case to change this system in areas such as vaping and services sales tax exemptions provided to businesses.  

Public Higher Ed Funding: Wants better pathways towards higher education in 11th and 12th grades. 15 years ago, university system in Kentucky was ? sponsored by state government, now it’s less than ?. Universities have increased tuition to fill that gap. “I can’t call a tuition increase anything other than what it is: which is a tax on hope. When we have priced the middle class or the working class out of a higher education, not only is that immoral, it is an economic suicide note in which we have to develop the intellectual capacity of our people to compete in a truly global, digital economy. We’re not doing that and as governor I’ll make sure we do.”

Job Training: The Kentucky Community and Technical College System campuses should be locations where people can come back and refresh skill training at any point in their career. This system should be “sufficiently funded” to meet the needs of the community and its economy.

Medicaid: We have to protect the Medicaid expansion. It needs to be expanded further. “Over the long term, it is cheaper to have people insured rather than not.” Uninsured people using emergency rooms as primary care providers is too expensive and an onerous burden on everyone. Will end Governor Matt Bevin’s waiver initiative on “day one.”

Abortion: Bevin has us on a path to be the first state to implement a de facto ban on reproductive health services. “And this is tragic to me because you can’t build a modern Kentucky unless you recognize the full equality of women. And you can’t recognize the full equality of women unless you trust them to make their own healthcare decisions.”

Marijuana: Strongly supports medical marijuana. “I think in a civil society we owe every comfort to the critically and chronically ill.” Medical marijuana is medicine and shouldn’t be taxed. Decriminalizing marijuana in amounts of less than a half ounce will generate revenue and will save taxpayers tens of millions of dollars a year in prosecutions related to marijuana possession. “Traffickers need to get what’s coming to them. Those who hurt people need to get what’s coming to them. But we have to be smart on crime as well as tough on crime and locking up the recreational pot user makes very little sense to me.”

Common Ground Issues: There’s an opportunity to enact criminal justice reform. “Not restoring rights of felons who have paid their debt to society locks them into a trajectory that ends up prohibiting self-sufficiency. Oftentimes it results in reentry in our criminal justices system and we just can’t afford it. And we can’t afford the moral consequences of it either.” Expanding the Internet to all Kentuckians, particularly in rural areas, has the potential of having political rewards for people in rural communities. Embracing renewable energy, particularly solar, isn’t partisan.

WKMS News sat down with Edelen's running mate last month. 

Matt Markgraf joined the WKMS team as a student in January 2007. He's served in a variety of roles over the years: as News Director March 2016-September 2019 and previously as the New Media & Promotions Coordinator beginning in 2011. Prior to that, he was a graduate and undergraduate assistant. He is currently the host of the international music show Imported on Sunday nights at 10 p.m.
Related Content