SALYERSVILLE - Two governor hopefuls stopped by Magoffin this month, meeting with local people to spread their vision of Kentucky under their proposed administrations.
James Comer, Republican, originally from Monroe County, met with Magoffin Countians on Tuesday, March 3 at the Lloyd M. Hall Community Center.
“I’m a conservative, a blue-collar guy, from a small town like Salyersville,” Comer told the Independent. “I have fought the Obama administration and won on the industrial hemp issue. I want to improve the business economy and I am the only candidate running in the primary for governor who has sued Obama and won, which is why I think I would be good for coal country. As far as my opponents, I’ve won statewide and they’re both coming off of losses. Matt Bevin, of course, lost to Mitch McConnell for state senator and Hal Heiner lost his race for mayor in Louisville.”
Comer, who is currently the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture, explained that his department was the first one in Kentucky’s history to return $1.65 million back to the taxpayers. He said he has created new opportunities for military veteran farmers through the creation of the Homegrown By Heroes Initiative. He described that through his leadership, Kentucky’s farm cash receipts grew to $6 billion in 2013, a 20 percent increase.
Comer said he promises to keep taxes low, to fight to get government out of the way so jobs can be created and grow the economy, develop a job-ready workforce by fighting for local control of schools, and defend the coal industry.
Hal Heiner, Republican and former Louisville Metro councilman, sat down with the Independent as he visited Magoffin on Monday, March 16, discussing his views on healthcare, teacher pensions, the economy, and the future of energy.
Heiner explained that it is important to have healthcare available, however the current administration’s solution is not sustainable, he said. He is looking at other states with Republican governors who are coming up with sustainable plans that will impact the budget minimally, while still providing healthcare.
When asked about teachers’ pensions, which the House has proposed a plan to authorize over $3 billion in bonds to continue funding, Heiner said that at over 50 percent self-funding, the teachers’ pensions plan is one of the better funded plans in the state, however in 2000 through 2002, those plans were fully funded and Kentucky’s credit rating has dropped five times during Beshear’s administration.
“We have an obligation as Kentucky government to honor those commitments made in the past - people have worked their lives depending on those commitments, but going forward, we have to make a change. We have to find a way for younger workers to move to that plan and we have to stop accruing more liabilities that will cause the whole system to crash.”
Heiner discussed the proposal of raising minimum wage, explaining that his number one focus in running is that Kentucky need to be growing the economy. He said economists say Kentucky is 100,000 jobs short of where it should be economically, and increasing the minimum wage before the federal government does will convey a negative business climate to companies looking to locate here.
While the recent news of the shutdown of the last Magoffin coal mine is still fresh, Heiner reiterates that “energy future is bright. Not today, not this month, but overall, I think it’s bright.”
Heiner discussed the global demand for coal, oil and natural gas and, while he said President Obama has overstepped his bounds trying to control coal on the state level, he said he plans to push back hard. In the future Heiner said energy will be able to bring good-paying jobs back to Eastern Kentucky.
He explained that for the last 25 years he has spent directly in job traction in economic development, building business parks, for instance.
“To sum up those 25 years, and the core conviction of why I’m running, companies, when they score Kentucky against other locations they could locate in other states, they love where we are. We’re perfectly located in the center of the country. The love our power rates, thanks to coal, that we’re about 25 percent less than the average of the rest of the country, gives them a competitive advantage. They love our work ethic here in Kentucky. That we’re known as people that are willing to do a full day’s work - show up and do a full day’s work - and they love the fact that it’s a great place to live. Kind of a vacation capital for a lot of northern states - lakes, rivers, outdoors - but when they turn their eye toward the capitol, they can’t stand Frankfort. They can’t stand our high tax rates. We’re sitting here at a 6 percent income tax rate. We cannot stay there. Ohio is dropping theirs - at 5.3 and going down to 4.1 percent. They can’t stand our regulatory environment. They’re scared about our credit rating, that that’s going to be a big tax increase on them. So we need, like other states, to turn to someone from the outside with new ideas that will bring business principles into Frankfort to solve the big problems.”