Kentucky’s governor is the most powerful official in state government. The governor is in charge of managing the agencies that make up the various components of state government like health care, corrections, education and transportation.
The governor also plays an important role in crafting the state’s laws and spending plan, sometimes crafting bills and budgets for the legislature to consider or advocating for new laws. Once a bill passes out of the legislature, the governor can sign it into law or veto it in its entirety, or even veto just parts of the bill.
The governor can deploy a legal team to defend the state’s laws in court or file lawsuits on behalf of the state — a point that has become controversial in recent years as Republican Gov. Matt Bevin has criticized Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear for not defending some anti-abortion laws that have passed out of the legislature.
Bevin has been governor for four years. If he is reelected, he would be the first two-term Republican in state history (Kentucky governors have only been allowed to run for reelection since a 1992 amendment of the state constitution).
Bevin was inaugurated in 2015 after defeating then-Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway by 9 points, becoming only the third Republican governor of Kentucky since World War II.
Throughout his first term, Bevin has attempted to reshape the state’s Medicaid system by requiring beneficiaries prove they are working or in school to get benefits, he’s successfully advocated for putting more money into the state’s ailing pension systems and signed hundreds of bills into law.
Bevin received a political boon after his first year in office when Republicans gained control of the state House of Representatives for the first time in nearly a century, putting the legislature and governor’s mansion under Republican control for the first time in state history. Since then, the legislature has approved and Bevin has signed many conservative measures, like a so-called “right-to-work” policy, a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage on public construction projects, an overhaul of the state’s workers compensation system and several anti-abortion laws.
Bevin has garnered attention for his combative demeanor and controversial comments he has made about opponents to his policy stances as well as judges and reporters.
Bevin once claimed that teachers who called in sick to protest his policies in Frankfort had left students vulnerable to sexual assault. He also recently claimed that every day in the United States, people kill themselves in casinos and then denied making the statement.
Bevin’s reelection opponent is Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear, the son of Bevin’s predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear.
Beshear has filed several lawsuits against Bevin, challenging his use of executive power to reorganize several state boards, make mid-year budget cuts to state universities and investigate teachers who protested in the state capitol. Beshear also successfully sued to block a pension reform bill that Bevin signed into law in 2018.
Anti-abortion advocates have criticized Beshear for refusing to defend some of the state’s new abortion laws — like a ban on the procedure once a fetal heartbeat can be detected (as early as the sixth week of pregnancy).
Beshear also drew controversy after his top deputy Tim Longmeyer was convicted of federal bribery charges stemming from his time as secretary of the state’s Personnel Cabinet in former Gov. Beshear’s administration. Prosecutors said they had no evidence that either of the Besehar administrations knew about the scheme.
Bevin is 52 years old; Beshear is 41. Neither man had held political office before they were elected in 2015.
Here is where the candidates stand on some of the most important issues facing Kentucky. Responses are taken from several public appearances in recent months. Beshear recently participated in a 30-minute call-in show on WFPL; Bevin never responded to an invitation.
Bevin made these comments during a campaign event at the Governor’s Mansion on Oct 11, 2019.
“It wouldn’t bother me one lick if there wasn’t an abortion provider in this state. It wouldn’t. Our state wouldn’t be less well-served by that.”
“I’ve had people say to me time and again, ‘you’re not supposed to bring religion into politics.’ Let me tell you this, this has nothing to do with religion, nothing whatsoever. This has everything to do with morality, it has everything to do with ethics, it has everything to do with good versus evil and right versus wrong. That’s exactly what this has to do. And the more you know scientifically, the more we know medically, the more it’s clear that whether you’re a person of faith or not, whether you’re religious or not, you cannot for one moment believe that we are not taking lives through the process of abortion. That’s exactly what it is, that’s only what it is. This idea that it’s not a human being, nonsense.”
“I support Roe v. Wade but I also support restrictions, especially for late-term procedures. But this governor is an extremist. He believes in a complete and total ban, even for victims of rape and incest. When you’re the attorney general, you work with victims of that trauma and they deserve options. Under this governor, a 13 year-old raped by a member of her own family and impregnated would have no options. I think that’s wrong.”
“The pension system has collapsed in Kentucky and public pension systems in America have and I’ll tell you why simply, in one minute. It’s tough. There used to be 30 people working for everybody that was retired. And then there were 20 and then 15 and then 12 and then 10. Social Security only has three and a half paying in for every one that’s retired. And nobody believes social security will last. But I’ll tell you what’s tragic is that Kentucky doesn’t have three and a half paying in, it has less than one. Less than one person paying in for everybody that’s retired. The system has collapsed. The only way to save it, to keep the promise that’s been made to people, the only way, is to change the structure for future employees. It is not possible to continue to promise future people the same thing that current and past people have been promised if there is to be any chance that any of them will get what’s been promised to them. It’s about math, it’s about finances, it’s about actuarial reality.”
“A pension is a promise. It is a promise we made to every teacher, police officer, firefighter and social worker. That although we don’t pay them enough for critically important work, we would make it up with a secure retirement. But this governor and the legislature broke that promise. They tried to illegally cut the retirements of over 200,000 public servants, and worse, they put it in a sewer bill. That shows you what they think of us. But we defeated them 7-0 in front of the Supreme Court. So what are they doing now? They’re pushing all of those costs down on cities and counties. And those cities and counties are trying to raise our taxes. Matt Bevin is raising our taxes to try to pay for this pension system.”
Bevin made these comments during an event hosted by the Kentucky Association of Counties on Oct 23, 2019.
“We have to modernize our tax code. We have to bring ourselves into a more competitive relationship with the states around us. We need to move from more of a production-based economy to a more consumption-based economy. Stop taxing the job creators and the wealth producers. Let them keep the money, redeploy it and then we’ll tax it then. That’s how it gets done. Let them build things with that money, then indeed we’ll tax it and your school districts will benefit from that. Let them redistribute it in the form of pay to individuals who work for them, or to hire additional people or to expand their operations. And those dollars will circulate through the community and be taxed.”
“We need expanded gaming right here in Kentucky. It’s a way that we can create the revenue we need, dedicated revenue for our pension system.”
“[Gov. Bevin’s] tax proposal would harm almost all of us. He wants to cut taxes for him and his buddies — the wealthiest — I think he calls them ‘job creators.’ He thinks there’s two different classes of people, I don’t agree. At the same time he wants to cut their taxes, he wants to raise the sales tax on everybody else. I will never allow taxes to go up on those who are one paycheck away from falling into poverty. It is time for new, dedicated revenue. We’ve got more than $550 million just sitting out there for us to take advantage of. And to push costs down onto cities and counties and have them raise taxes. To talk about raising sales taxes when people are already struggling, that’s wrong.”
Higher education funding
Bevin made these comments during a debate hosted by the Paducah Chamber of Commerce on Oct 3, 2019.
“The career and technical colleges have seen more students than ever before because we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training programs focusing on non-four year degrees. We’ve turned college education into an arms race. Four and five times the cost, but not four and five times the output. Would I love to see more money for higher education, of course I would. Will I make it a priority the extent we have the money, of course. But the reality is we have to spend money that we have and we can’t promise money we don’t have.”
Beshear made these comments during a debate hosted by the Paducah Chamber of Commerce on Oct 3, 2019.
“We have priced higher education out of reach for so many Kentuckians. I think about my dad who grew up a poor preacher’s kid just down in Dawson Springs in Hopkins County. His dad worked hard, was able to afford the University of Kentucky for him, my dad paid his way through law school and became the governor of the commonwealth of Kentucky. That ought to be possible for everyone, but right now so many people couldn’t have afforded that higher education. I’ll tell you, I’m 41 years old — I won’t tell you how old my wife is — we’re still paying a student debt. That’s not how people should be living. Let’s also admit that we’ve got to get more kids in our technical schools and our community colleges. This governor has cut funding to those. We’ve got to increase it.”
“We want not just health coverage, we want health outcomes and better health outcomes. And I believe that able-bodied working-age men and women, people who could go to work, people who don’t have dependents should be doing something in exchange for the free health care that the men and women who go to work every day to provide to them may or not have themselves that they’re paying for, I think everyone should be at the helm.”
“You talk about health care being a universal right, but it’s important to understand this. Somebody has to provide it. None of us have a right to force a person to go to medical school to provide medical services, we don’t have a right to force somebody to treat someone if it costs money. It may be a universal desire, but to call it a right is a bit difficult when it costs money and requires a person to do something to provide that right. I think the key here is to figure out how we can ensure that people who can do for themselves do do for themselves. And that we don’t just seek coverage, but we get better health outcomes. Kentucky HEALTH will get people engaged in their health outcomes because people that are engaged take better care of things, they do it with personal things, they do it with their own bodies, their own personal decisions.”
“I believe that health care is a basic human right. And that everybody should be able to take their parents or their kids to a doctor when they’re sick. That’s why I’m fighting both this governor and the federal government who are absolutely trying to tear away coverage for preexisting conditions.
“This governor’s expanded Medicaid waiver is cruel. It’s shown in Arkansas that the people it’s going to kick off their coverage are people who are already working. It just creates bureaucratic red tape and ultimately tears health care away from people.
“And what’d we learn just this last week? He’s going to spend $270 million of your taxpayer dollars just to kick people off health care. There couldn’t be a bigger difference between us in this race. I’m going to protect your preexisting condition coverage.”