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50th District rematch: McCoy, DeWeese discuss their views on state government

 

By JIM BROOKS
Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Thursday, Oct. 25, 2018 — Wednesday evening’s televised debate involving the candidates for the 50th District state representative seat was rematch from two years earlier that included Republican Chad McCoy and Democrat James DeWeese.

McCoy won the 2016 election, which also brought a Republican majority to the state House for the first time in more than 90 years.

Two years ago the candidates found much to agree on; after the past two years and the actions of the Republican-controlled General Assembly, there was much more disagreement between the two candidates.

Chad McCoy, the incumbent 50th District state representative, answers a question during Wednesday evening’s debate.

The debate was held at the Nelson County Civic Center and televised by Standard Communications and PLG TV.

DeWeese stressed that his focus was to make state government work for working families. He works as a business agent for Local 89, and for years he’s been involved in negotiations and discussions to improve working conditions for those he’s represented. He said he was ready to put those skills to work in Frankfort while representing Nelson County.

DeWeese was critical of the actions of the General Assembly over the past two sessions, which saw what he called “attacks on the paychecks of working families.”

McCoy is self-employed in his law practice, and said he had no ties to special interest groups.
2 years of change, and its scary. The good things from the change …. record low unemployment, record investment in Ky. …. record number of people back to work, higher per pupil funding … fully funding pensions, income taxes lowered, wages up 5 percent in nelson county.

PENSION ISSUE. McCoy said the pension issue required the General Assembly to take action, which took the form of Senate Bill 151 at the end of the 2018 General Assembly. That legislation is currently awaiting a ruling from the state high court.

SB151 maintained the status quo for existing pension participants, but would create a new pension plan for new employees. Whatever the outcome of the legal challenge, the state must continue to contribute enough funding to take care of the underfunding. For next year, that funding amounts to $4.5 billion, 20 percent of the state’s overall budget.

DeWeese said Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin and others made the pension crisis look worse than it really was. The General Assembly never sought to bring in new revenue to help fund the pension plans, which could have come from expanded gambling and legalizing and taxing marijuana.

He said he fears that reductions to the state teacher pension plans will make it more difficult to recruit teachers to work in Kentucky.

TAX REFORM. DeWeese said the General Assembly’s tax reform it approved earlier this year was “lopsided and unfair” because it benefitted those who made $175,000 or more in income.

The reform lowered the income tax rate from 6 to 5 percent, which was a tax cut; however the General Assembly also did away or reduced some tax deductions, plus it expanded the sales tax to a number of services. The result is a tax increase on working families, he said, adding that the General Assembly should close tax loopholes on the higher income earners.

McCoy disagreed with DeWeese’s assessment and said it was simple math. The working poor didn’t pay taxes before tax reform and still won’t. Workers who make enough to be taxed will pay 5 percent rather than 6 percent. “That’s a 17 percent tax cut.”

He said that this year’s actions to lower the tax rate and expand sales tax on some services was just one step in the General Assembly’s plans to reform the state’s tax structure to more closely resemble some neighboring states.

DeWeese said the businesses who had to pay sales tax on their services now were ones who did not have lobbyists to look out for their interests in Frankfort. He called the tax changes “unbalanced and its wrong.”

GUN CONTROL. Neither DeWeese or McCoy were in favor of gun control or adding restrictions to gun ownership as a way to reduce mass shootings.

McCoy said the issue is a societal one and said the country lacks a lot in how it deals with mental health issues. He said school resource officers are an excellent tool for school districts to use provided they can afford the cost of hiring them.

DeWeese said he’s strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and said expanded affordable healthcare would provide mental health services to those who need them.

STATE HEALTH, SMOKING, CIGARETTE TAXES. Both candidates found areas of agreement on how state government should promote better health among Kentuckians.

DeWeese said he didn’t believe it was the state’s job to pass a statewide smoking ban, though he said he didn’t smoke and appreciated those businesses that don’t allow smoking. Affordable healthcare would help promote wellness and give people the tools to get healthier, he said.

Regarding raising the state’s cigarette tax, DeWeese said that increasing the tax hurts those with lower incomes

McCoy agreed that the state should not have a statewide smoking ban. “I think its a local government issue” and a decision each business should make. He also said he would not support raising the cigarette tax again.

He said he people vote with the dollars — if they don’t want to be around others who smoke, they will patronizes smoke-free businesses. He said he approved state incentives to education the public on health issues and promote healthier lifestyles.

OPIOID CRISIS, JAIL OVERCROWDING. Again, the candidates agreed that the ongoing opioid crisis has led to increased arrests for drug offenses and putting addicts in jail

Overcrowding in jails is a statewide problem, McCoy explained.

“Kentucky incarcerates more of its own residents than any other state.”

He said that sticking drug addicts in jail does nothing to help those individuals with their addiction.

“All you learn in jail is how to be a better criminal,” he said.

So many drug crimes are felonies, and a felony conviction immediately makes it more difficult for an individual to get a job. He suggested decriminalizing some levels of drug possession and using the money saved to support rehab programs for addicts.

“The ‘we’re tough on crime’ mentality hasn’t been helpful,” he said. He said addicts need help finding treatment and not necessarily being stuck in jail.

DeWeese agreed that the opioid crisis is one of state’s biggest challenges. All addicts are not criminals, and having good healthcare available to them can help them get the treatment they need. He recommended the state decriminalize marijuana and instead tax and regulate it to help fund treatment opportunities.

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