Candidates for Kentucky’s 2nd District State Senate seat debated major issues during a Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce forum on Thursday, including teacher pensions, service sales tax and school safety. Danny Carroll is the Republican incumbent Julie Tennyson is the Democratic challenger.
The seat represents McCracken, Marshall, Ballard and Carlisle counties.
Watch the video of the debate, courtesy of WPSD-TV.
Municipalities are limited on how revenue can be generated for positive community growth. Should all be treated equally and have the same ability in how revenue is raised, including the collection of community development funds?
Carroll: There should be equality. There are inequalities between municipalities with regard to the alcohol license fee to cover police and law enforcement issues related to alcohol and smaller communities not able to collect an occupational tax. “We need to look at that as part of larger tax reform.”
Tennyson: All cities should be equally able to raise revenue whether small or large. Tax funds, such as restaurant taxes, can be used for community development. It should be left up to local government to determine whether people should be taxed. “I am generally against more taxes. I think that we need to have less taxes, if possible. But as a local community, if you want taxes, I think they should have the ability to tax.”
Tennyson: It was clear in the last session teachers were not being listened to. We have to sit down with teachers and listen to them and make sure they want what eventually gets passed. Protests hurt students. “If they were listened to there wouldn’t have been protests.” Unfunded pension liability is somewhat of a myth. “We’re never going to have to pay that all at one time” so long as it’s funded.
Carroll: We listened to teachers in the last session. SB1 changed for current teachers: that they are no longer able to use required sick time to boost their pension; and to bring new teachers to the hybrid cash balance system, which will bring higher retirement amount than the current defined benefit system. “The organized teachers, KEA, they don’t want any change. But you can’t deny the fact in TRS we have a $15 billion dollar unfunded liability that we have to deal with. If we do make changes, it needs to be graduated in: retirees affected less, newer teachers affected more, but created in such a way they can make up any revenue loss by working maybe a couple years longer.”
Carroll: I serve on the Legislative School Safety Work Group, traveling and listening across the state. Top priorities: secure schools, train teachers, staff, looking at school security - resource officers, special law enforcement officers, or the idea of arming teachers. The other aspect: mental health, including looking at trauma-informed care and adverse childhood experiences. We’re finding schools are taking care of these issues themselves by initiating programs that fit their needs. Lawmakers should set parameters and support.
Tennyson: Mental health is key. “I think mental health is the key. I think we’ve got to have good mental health programs in schools that can be paid for in private insurance and Medicaid funds.” Strong, trained police officers need to be in schools. People need to pass shooting tests. Metal detectors are important. Schools should consider getting rid of backpacks.
Tennyson: “My husband is a registered Republican. So I walk across the aisle every day.” We need to put people over party.
Carroll: Bipartisan work with retiring Rep. Gerald Watkins (a Democrat) including a bill that saved Lourdes Hospital sales tax money; a bill making the attempted murder of a police officer a violent offense. Also worked with Rep. Martha Jane King on a 9-1-1 bill, providing money to 9-1-1 centers. “A good bill is a good bill regardless of where it comes from.”
Carroll: A local issue. Supports local government decisions. Has looked at possibilities to close or move.
Tennyson: The issue shows the problem with privatization. Republicans want to privatize schools and prisons. There’s not enough oversight by state and ability to make changes within the system. It’s harder for lawmakers to change privately run organizations than those that are government run.
SERVICE SALES TAX
Tennyson: “These are a burden for small businesses because they have to put procedures in place to collect and pay the taxes,” as well as keeping that money out of their cash flow and are subject to more audits. Nonprofits should not be taxed. Service sales tax hurts small businesses, poor, middle-class. These taxes were put on to give tax breaks to the wealthy. We need to make sure state tax incentives are being put in the right place. Internet sales tax will be a windfall for the state. “Other states don’t have service sales taxes and I don’t think we should either.”
Carroll: A correction will be made in the next session. Two bills were pre-filed in House that will exempt nonprofits. I will also pre-file a bill in the Senate. Tax reform is needed. The decision to do a partial tax reform package last session to resolve a half-billion dollar budget gap in House and Senate versions - some programs were restored due to this funding. “That is in no way intended to be the final version of tax reform. There are some changes that need to be made to it.” We need to compete with other states and protect infrastructure, public safety, etc.
Carroll: “I want union jobs. I want non-union jobs. I want all the jobs in our state.” Support for ‘right-to-work’ doesn’t mean I am against unions. New industry in the state will benefit unions. I’m not against teachers, but unfunded liabilities must be addressed to assure teachers have a pension system.
Tennyson: Will listen to people in the district and will not put party first.
The midterm election is November 6.