A strong public education system is the cornerstone of our commonwealth. I attended public schools and my daughter attends public school. Our highly-qualified teachers and classified employees work hard laying the groundwork for our children’s future success and our elected officials ought to do everything they can to ensure our schools have the resources necessary to match that effort. This includes fully-funding the public pension system so we can not only attract and retain top quality teachers, but we can keep our promise to lifelong educators who have given their lives to teaching and training our kids.
I stand with Governor Beshear in his call to give all teachers a minimum 5% pay raise this year. It is imperative that Kentucky teachers are paid what they deserve so that we can retain the best and brightest to the field of education. We must also look at ways to expand access to high-quality early childhood care and education opportunities, like Universal Pre-K. Studies show that investments in early childhood learning pay dividends as children develop and it’s imperative that we get students started on the right track.
The minimum wage in Kentucky is $7.25. Working at that hourly rate leaves a full-time worker well below the poverty line in Kentucky – a fact that is completely unacceptable. We need to pass legislation that will increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour, with some exceptions for very small businesses with limited revenue. Working Kentuckians should not have to juggle more than one job to afford a roof over their head and food on their table. Additionally, we need to repeal the so-called “Right to Work” law and any other union-busting legislation that restricts the ability of workers to organize and collectively bargain. We also need to build on Governor Beshear’s efforts to attract new businesses to Kentucky. New industries mean good-paying, high quality job opportunities for all Kentuckians. And we can’t stop there. It’s vital that we look for additional revenue opportunities like expanded gaming. Almost every surrounding state already has it and missing out on that revenue is a lost opportunity. That revenue stream could shore up our pension system and make our public universities more affordable.
In my capacity as Incident and Problem Escalation Manager with the Cabinet for Health and Human Services, I helped establish and implement the original Kynect project and witnessed first-hand how it opened the doors to affordable health care for tens of thousands of Kentuckians. Kentucky’s expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been a tremendous success. We need to ensure its continuation by writing it into law and make Kynect a permanent clearinghouse for health plans and other government services. We also need to identify areas in which we can streamline Kynect so it’s easier for everyone to obtain health care.
Access to affordable, high-quality health care should be a right for all Kentuckians And that’s not just the ability to see a doctor when you feel sick, but also the ability to afford necessary prescription medications, preventative care visits, and access to reproductive health care for women. It is not the job of the General Assembly to interfere with health care matters that rightfully fall between a doctor and a patient. It must be the legislature’s job, however, to remove barriers to life saving medical care and that’s exactly what I will work to do.
While progress has been made, sadly discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community is still widespread, affecting people in employment, housing, health care, access to credit, and so many other areas of life. In a recent survey, more than a quarter of LGBTQ+ people reported experiencing sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination, causing a significant number of people to avoid public places like stores, restaurants, and even doctors’ offices. In Kentucky, urban centers like Lexington and Louisville have led by passing local ordinances, but we need a state law that once and for all bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I pledge to stand with the LGBTQ+ community and work toward equality and fairness for all.
We must protect and expand voting rights so that everyone — from the college student, to the busy parent juggling kids, to the 9-5 employee with limited time-off, to the shift worker with unpredictable hours — has the opportunity to have their say in our democracy. We should not only expand voting hours on Election Day, we need no-excuse early voting for mail-in and drop off ballots. We’ve proven during this pandemic that it is possible, while not sacrificing the integrity of our election process. The right to vote must be protected and expanded. And that includes making it easier to vote for those newly eligible and for those with a criminal record who have served their time.
There is no doubt that climate change is real. I come from a family of farmers, so I know how important our land, water and air are to our way of life. That is why I strongly support new solar energy efforts that are emerging around the state. With Gov. Beshear’s recent announcement of Ford’s battery investment here, there’s no reason why Kentucky can’t be a leader in the electric vehicle market, creating sustainable good-paying jobs. This is just one example of how job creation and reducing fossil fuel use can be mutually beneficial. We need more lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on board who are invested in protecting our environment for generations to come.
We also need to protect our green spaces in our local neighborhoods. When Kentucky Utilities began cutting down trees in Lexington, I was out in front calling for them to work with us to come to a reasonable solution. Of course we need to look for ways to reduce power outages, but we don’t have to sacrifice our tree canopy to do so. There is a middle ground where we can trim trees, maintain our home values, and increase our communities’ tree canopy.
Being a good legislator is about building relationships and learning to work together. My philosophy is simple: work at finding common-sense solutions to the problems Kentuckians are facing and then work to find common ground on the other side of the aisle – all without compromising on fundamental values.
Our state tax system does indeed need reform, but not in the way that has been considered by the General Assembly in recent years. Our tax system does and can have incredible impacts on working families, and we should reform it in ways that lift up the least advantaged. In addition to ensuring low-income Kentuckians do not have an unfair tax burden, we need to ensure high-income Kentuckians and businesses are paying their fair share. I largely agree with many of the findings by the 2012 Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform established by Governor Steve Beshear. Specifically, I would support a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) at 15% of the federal EITC. We should broaden sales taxes to selected services, especially those considered luxury items, allow local Governments to enact General sales taxes, and raise the excise tax on cigarette packs to 2 dollars. I favor eliminating the export credit under the minerals severance tax, and support HB 322 that would establish a tax credit for families who contribute to a Kentucky Education Savings Plan trust account 529 plan.