Two Republican candidates are competing in the primary to represent the 19th District, which includes Edmonson County and part of Warren County, in the Kentucky House of Representatives. Incumbent Michael Meredith and is being challenged by Brian Strow.
It’s no surprise that banker Michael Meredith and economist Brian Strow agree that the main issue facing Kentucky is the state’s financial situation. Meredith is a loan officer for the Bank of Edmonson County running for a fifth term in the state legislature. He says lawmakers have to address the issue of state revenues not growing to meet financial demands.
“We’ve had ballooning costs of pensions. We’ve had ballooning costs of corrections. We’ve had larger costs of health care as well," said Meredith.
The way to balance those costs is to encourage business expansion and attract new industry, he said.
"We need to continue moving towards pro-growth tax policies that will bring more businesses here, bring more revenue here, bring more jobs here,” said Meredith.
Western Kentucky University economics professor Brian Strow said the current financial situation is a result of the state making promises it can’t keep.
“The state has one of the highest debt levels in the country, one of the worst credit ratings in the country, the second highest level of unfunded pension liabilities in the country," said Strow. "And for some reason Frankfort, for over a decade now, has thought they could tax, spend and borrow their way to prosperity and what it’s left us with is a pile of debt.”
Strow served two terms on the Bowling Green City Commission and said transparency is important in determining financial priorities.
“I’m proud to say that when I was a city commissioner in Bowling Green, the first meeting that I ever engaged in, I proposed and we enacted a zero-based budget to put all spending on the table where we prioritized spending in public, on television, through marathon sessions,” said Strow.
The lack of transparency drew outrage this year when state lawmakers quickly passed pension reform, attaching it to an unrelated sewage bill. Meredith, who voted for the bill, says he understands the public reaction.
“A lot of people were upset with the process of how things happened in Frankfort, but if you look at what actually happened for current teachers, retired teachers, we didn’t affect retired teachers at all in the pension reform that we did. They were not touched,” said Meredith.
He said current teachers had one change in their pension benefits.
“T was the accumulation of sick days and how that affected their retirement because of the cash buyouts in the final year.”)
Meredith says the pension plan for new teachers is promising, especially if there’s a
good return on investments, and it has less financial risk for the state.
Strow says lawmakers need to address all the financial issues impacting education.
(((BSeducation :16 OF TOMORROW ))
(“We see this with reductions in education funding, both at the elementary and secondary level, but also at the university level. As an economist and as an educator, I do feel the single best investment we can make for Kentucky’s economy is in educating the minds of tomorrow.”)
One of Meredith’s challenges is to dispel voter concern about his involvement in a
secret sexual harassment settlement. The Legislative Ethics Commission dismissed
complaints against three of the state lawmakers involved, including Meredith. He
says that decision speaks for itself.
((( MMharrassment :09 THE SITUATION )))
(“It’s been dismissed by the ethics commission and the outside law firm for the House didn’t find any evidence of wrongdoing. That’s as far as I’m going to comment on the situation.”)
But Strow says that issue is important.
(((BSethics :25 DISMISS IT )))
(“Well, it is why I got into this race. I do think that my current representative needs to be held accountable. There was this case with the secret settlement that he engaged in. The prosecutor at the Legislative Ethics Commission said he had more than enough evidence to move forward with the charges against my competitor. And for reasons that I’m not quite sure, the Legislative Ethics Commission said, “Well, even though there’s evidence we’re just going to ignore it and dismiss it.”)
Voters will decide in next Tuesday’s primary election whether the perspective of
Strow or Meredith will represent Republicans in the 19th district. Polls are open from
6 a.m. to 6p.m local time.