Local candidates for State House and State Senate answered questions ranging from tax reform to non-partisan cooperation at a forum in Benton on Tuesday night. The forum was the second hosted this week by Marshall County High School’s AP Government class.
District Six State Representative Race
Republican Chris Freeland said he wants to focus on attracting jobs to the region when asked about what problems he’d like to solve as a state legislator.
“I’d like to be a part of a collaboration in working with our Judge/Executive, our Mayors, our state Representatives and local business leaders and get a plan together to recruit these companies to come here so that our communities can thrive,” Freeland said.
Democrat Linda Story Edwards criticized Republicans for passing the ‘right-to-work’ law -- a controversial measure that allows workers to not pay union dues even if they work at a unionized company. Edwards said she wants to revisit the legislation.
“It seems like they are trying to dismantle the middle class by doing away with prevailing wage and making Kentucky a ‘right-to-work’ state,” Edwards said.
Critics have said the measure weakens unions and drives down wages. Supporters say it makes the state more competitive when attracting businesses.
Edwards also called the pension reform plan “disastrous” for teachers and other state workers. She said she would like to “be a watchdog” for citizens in Frankfort.
Despite some issues falling on party lines for the candidates, both Freeland and Edwards said they would work across the aisle to address issues.
“It’s about putting people over party that is key to doing this and doing it in the right way-that shows what we stand for here in west Kentucky,” Freeland said.
Edwards said she would be a “delegate style” representative by putting constituents first, but would collaborate with others to “get the job done.”
The 6th Dist. seat is open because current state Rep. Will Coursey, a Democrat, is running for local judge/executive.
District Two State Senate Race
Tax reform dominated most of the conversation between Republican incumbent Sen. Danny Carroll and Democratic challenger Julie Tennyson.
Tennyson said she wants to do away with some of the recently-enacted service sales taxes that she said hurts small businesses.
Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed the surprise changes to the tax code late during this year’s legislative session, predicting that the increases would raise about $480 million in new revenue over the next two years. Some of the new service sales taxes included car repairs, pet grooming and dry cleaning businesses.
Carroll said the tax reform package was not “intended to be the end of tax reform.” He said those taxes were raised to help fund programs that were initially cut to fund the state’s ailing pension system. He said committees are looking at future packages with a goal to “broaden the tax base.”
“We increase the service taxes- you broaden the base and as you do that you reduce income taxes. Our goal at the end of this with the final package is to do away with income taxes in the state,” Carroll said.
Tennyson said she wants to look at tax incentives given to corporations by making sure those corporations bring in “long-lasting, good paying jobs.” She also wants Internet sales tax revenue put toward education.
Candidates for the Marshall County Judge/Executive race and the Sheriff’s race faced-off on Monday night.