Candidates for Kentucky's State House 5th District outline their differences in a range of issues in conversations with Matt Markgraf on WKMS Sounds Good. Republican incumbent Kenny Imes and Democratic challenger David Ramey discuss the relationship between the state and higher education, regulations on businesses, minimum wage, second amendment rights and other issues they feel strongly about. The Kentucky State House of Representatives 5th District covers Calloway County and part of Trigg County.
Note: Slightly shorter versions of these conversations aired on Sounds Good on November 2 and 3rd. They were recorded a week prior.
Why should 5th District voters elect you:
Imes: Doesn't have many pre-formed opinions other than basic standards and moral values he feels reflects Calloway County. Born and raised in the community. Served four terms in the 1970s, running for his current third term. Frankfort is changing dynamic with the House 'up for grabs' and that these are tumultuous times for the nation.
Ramey: Brings a different set of backgrounds to the General Assembly. Spent last 30 years in Murray. Came as a student, has two kids who are students, wife works on campus. Worked at Murray Ledger and Times. Small business owner - insurance agent. Chair of Democratic Party in Calloway County. Has connections in Frankfort.
Working with Governor Matt Bevin:
Imes: Like-minded in many areas, conservative in thinking overall and wanting to get Kentucky going in the right direction.
Ramey: Hopeful that in 2017 - a non-election year - long-term issues can be solved like the pension problem. Governor and administration doesn't 'seem to get it' in regards to public and higher education. Despite getting the 2% state appropriation back, still going to have to deal with the 4.5% cuts over next two years. People on Murray State campus concerned about jobs and co-workers. Hopes Democrats will continue to control the House.
Imes: Will have to reallocate funds from other areas to fix the problem. Legally Kentucky can't file bankruptcy like other entities. Need to balance between bonding (which he did vote for two years ago) and finding cuts. All of state government took a 4.5 percent cut with a few exceptions (like raises for State Police). Murray State's cuts are manageable. Applauds the Bevin's efforts to create a more 'work ready' atmosphere so when students graduate they can get jobs. Supports going deeper into the high school level to develop a course of action to help students plan for the future and get skills for better jobs. Added that university presidents and academic leaders need to specialize in certain areas rather than "everybody trying to do everything in every part of the state."
Ramey: Pension problem not solved in 24-month budget biennium. Bonding bill makes sense - bond the obligation and refinance debt. Even without a bond the retirement situation in a 10-15 year period even without a bond by doing 'set asides' for rainy day fund. A bipartisan mess.
Imes: State is the foundation for education of students not federal government. Education is more than academics. So often the conversation is on formal education. This is needed at least through high school, but by college students need some direction. Knew what he wanted to do with his life at the age of 9 and encourages more young people thinking that way. Worked to bring extra funding for the Breathitt Veterinary Center.
Ramey: When it comes to raising tuition, university presidents and boards 'have their hands tied' because in the last decade state appropriations have 'continued to be cut.' Losing in the long run doing that. Work force and opportunities for communities to have better, higher paying jobs is lost. People coming to Murray State can get a degree and a higher paying job in Kentucky, paying more in taxes that go into the economy. Higher education in the 5th District "by far is the most important issue." Investment needs to be increased, not cut back.
Regulations on Business:
Imes: Pre-filed legislation to sunset all state regulations after seven years. This would force the cabinet or an agency to go before the administrative review committee to be reinstated. Have become too regulatory. Red tape hampers businesses and ability to be a productive community. Regulations not state laws.
Ramey: Cutting back regulations a benefit. Concerned about bill pre-filed by opponent. Will create more 'red tape' in the public sector that would put additional burden on state employees particularly in light of recent budget cuts. Outdated regulations should be changed or updated through legislative process in Spring session.
Imes: $7.25 not a livable wage. Has no problem with indexing wage to a standard like consumer price index. The current rate is arbitrary, why not raise it to $50 or $100 (he said facetiously) - the problem with doing that is that the price of goods and services would also increase. Wants more low wage workers gaining experience and training through associate degrees for higher wage jobs like welding and computer programming. Paid his way through school working as a teenager.
Ramey: $7.25 not a livable wage. Supports increase. $10.10 a ceiling. Biggest problem is poor working people - facing more challenges with less income. Increase helps people at bottom and those making slightly more - will put that money back into the economy. Supports tax reform.
2nd Amendment Rights:
Imes: Lifetime member of NRA. A person has the right to protect themselves and their property. Countries and cities with strict gun control have higher killing and crime rates. Any person who wants to dominate or become a dictator the first thing they do is disarm the citizenry.
Ramey: Has an 'AQ' rating from NRA, highest one can get without voting record. Protect the 2nd Amendment. Room for discussion about keeping people who shouldn't have guns (mental illness problems, criminal histories, terrorism watch list). To stop massive gun shootings need to address mental illness. Kentucky underfunded in that area.
Other issues you feel strongly about:
Imes: The right to life. Against 'wholesale abortion' and Planned Parenthood. Also believes in a woman's right to choose, but in 99.3% of cases of unwanted pregnancy the woman made the choice prior to conception. 1st, 2nd and 10th amendment 'very near and dear to my heart.' Federal overreach in 10th amendment being exploited. Has to be road systems and some EPA control but too many people with no life experience making rules.
Ramey: Appropriation for Highway 641 - other than Murray State will focus on funding this. Also interested in having conversations regarding invasive fish species like Asian Carp. Also concerned about Right to Work legislation and wants to protect right to organize and work in a union shop.