I like talking about policy. I enjoy discussing ideas. And I appreciate people who ask my opinion. (Can’t you tell? <g>)
So, I was glad to get a policy survey from Rep. Ron Crimm. He seems like a good man, open to hearing from his constituents. And the questions seemed timely, as they were about issues likely to come before the General Assembly this year.
In order for you, too, to know what might be on the mind of your representative, especially if they are a Republican, I decided to share both the survey and my answers, along with some notes just for this article. Let’s see what we have to look forward to in January, shall we?
(In order to keep everything straight, the survey questions are in bold, my response is in block quote, and my additional notes are in parens and italics. Here we go!)
Thank you for taking time to ask my opinion about various issues the General Assembly will be facing. Rather than use paper, I decided to send you an email with my responses.
1. What suggestions would you make to fund government agencies in Kentucky? (Possible answers are Increase Taxes, Cut Spending, Decrease Taxes and Overregulation)
Other — Combination of tax reform, tax decrease, and tax increase. Too many exemptions and loopholes in current tax structure, especially economic incentives for companies that aren’t proven to deliver equal value. Effective tax rate on business and individuals (not stated tax rate) is too low. Would like to see serious discussion of Jim Wayne’s plan.
(Unfortunately, Jim Wayne’s tax fairness plan has no chance of even being discussed in today’s Frankfort. And the framing on the answers is classic: whenever you mention regulation you have to include either “over” or “excessive” with it. Finally, I should have said the effective tax rate on SOME businesses and individuals is too low.)
2. Should the General Assembly pass legislation that would give it more oversight and approval of executive orders, like the creation of Obamacare in Kentucky? (Yes, No, Undecided)
Undecided. I know some people were upset with Governor Beshear’s action around Kynect. (I supported it.) On the other hand, I would be interested in knowing what other executive orders the Legislature is concerned about. I would have to see the actual legislation, and analyze its effects on the ability to govern, to determine whether or not I supported it.
(I wonder if the Republicans are still pissed that the Gov set up Kynect and helped thousands of Kentuckians have health insurance? Uhm, that would be a YES. But I don’t recall Beshear going crazy with executive orders. And, aren’t we treading into some constitutional issues here? Would have been nice to get more than one sentence about the problem. Unless, of course, you just want to collect a bunch of Yesses so you can use them as proof that “everyone supports this.” Oh wait …)
3. Are you concerned that overregulation by the EPA on Kentucky Coal will raise energy costs?
No. The EPA is not the problem; the market is turning its back on coal, and it is time we face reality as a state and figure out what we are going to do in a post-coal era.
(See the earlier note about always using “over” in combination with “regulation.” Obviously, dealing with climate change is not on Rep. Crimm’s radar. Nor is figuring out what Eastern Kentucky is going to do when the last mine closes.)
4. Should Kentucky allow workers who are not in a union to keep more of their take-home pay?
No, no, no. (Nice wording on the question, by the way.) Right-To-Freeload is a travesty of a bill. It has nothing to do with workers; it is about destroying unions so they cannot support Democrats. We need more unions, not less.
(One of the more dishonest questions on the survey. A better wording would be “keep more of their take-home pay, which will be much lower than it would have been, so that the extra money they keep will not come near making up the money they lost by having their union destroyed.”)
5. The cost for most publicly-funded projects in Kentucky, including schools, requires the use of prevailing wage. Studies have shown this can increase the cost of a project by 10 to 14 percent over the cost of the same project built in the private sector. To allow our limited funds for infrastructure project to go further, should Kentucky eliminate the use of prevailing wage?
Lean No, but would like to learn more. At a fundamental level, I support prevailing wage. I would be interested in learning more about the statistics you quote.
(This is one of those arcane questions that most citizens have never heard of … and, when it is explained like it is above, they will obviously say Yes. If we’re going to protect our workers from a race to the bottom, we need to do a better job of educating people about these issues.)
6. Are you in favor of raising the minimum wage, even if it would have negative economic impacts, and cost jobs in Kentucky if passed?
Yes, yes, yes. There are only two reasonable positions on the minimum wage: either have it do what it is supposed to go — guarantee a living wage — or get rid of it entirely. Its current level is inadequate, and should be raised. As for the economic impact: putting more money into the pockets of the lower class will stimulate the economy; putting more money into the pockets of the wealthiest will only stimulate Wall Street.
(There’s the framing again. I just don’t understand why people are opposed to a living wage. If someone works a full-time job, they should not have to be on public assistance, period. And of course, study after study shows that raising the minimum wage to the modest level that is proposed generates more economic growth than it hurts by raising business costs.)
7. In order to reduce the number of frivolous law suits filed against Kentucky’s health care industry, should the General Assembly pass tort reform?
Undecided. I would need to see good fact-based evidence that there is a serious problem.
(So, what’s a “frivolous” law suit? I’m sure there are some — but frivolous is in the eye of the beholder. Without data, this is a solution based on anecdotes.)
8. Do you support expanding gambling, even with the issues related to gambling addiction, as a potential new revenue source for Kentucky and the horse racing industry?
Yes. The gambling horse left the barn a long time ago. We already have a lottery. Casinos would be another revenue stream. If we want to help problem gamblers, then divert part of the income stream into addiction treatment.
(This is one of the more hypocritical issues out there. If we’re going to talk about addiction, let’s start with tobacco, since Kentucky is one of the nation’s leaders for lung cancer. And what about alcohol? Oh no, can’t mess with alcohol — tourist dollars. And if you’re so concerned about addiction, why did it take years to get something passed about heroin? “No, we’re okay with all THOSE addiction — just not gambling.” Please.)
9. What should the General Assembly do to the current level of school funds?
Increase, but with accompanying program goals to ensure accountability. (Lots to say here — too much to put into an email.)
(The “lots to say here” comment refers to the educational-business complex we’ve got going on, with some money going here and there but not into the classrooms. We obviously need to spend more on education … but we need to be smart about it, and pay attention to results as well. And of course, there’s the coming charter school fight, where we get to see which business people get our education money.)
10. Should an elected official be required to uphold a law, even if it goes against the core principles of their religious belief?
Yes. Freedom of religion is about the freedom to practice your own religion, not about using your religion to hurt others, or deny them their rights.
(This answer kept turning into a sermon on the meaning of religious freedom, along with a rant about the Kim Davis spectacle/debacle. I finally shortened it to what you see here. But look again at the opening clause: “Should an elected official be required to uphold a law?” Think about the fact that that is a real question.)
Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’d be glad to discuss these issues further, if you would like. I’m always ready to get coffee and talk policy. <g>
(Haven’t gotten a coffee invite … but, there’s still time. Will keep you posted. <g>)
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