Politics & Government

Kentucky state assembly candidates face off in first debate

Candidates for the open 13th state Senate seat in Lexington, Kathy Stein and Chuck Ellinger II, both said General Assembly leaders erred by approving a 47 percent pay raise to the legislative research director Bobby Sherman at a time other state workers will receive a 1 percent pay raise.

"I think it was wrong and I think it was unethical," said Stein, a Democratic state representative from Lexington, during the candidates' first debate at the Lexington Forum's meeting early Thursday morning at Keeneland. Specifically, she said she took issue with any behind-the-scenes deals cut between Sherman and the legislative leaders.

Stein said if leaders were concerned they would lose Sherman to retirement in December to take advantage of a more robust pension they should have had a successor in waiting.

Ellinger, the Republican candidate who currently is an at large Lexington councilman, also said the 47 percent raise, which amounted to about $63,000, was too much.

"I think a 1 percent raise for this gentleman would have been just fine," he said.

Both candidates also agreed that the General Assembly must do more to address a financially unbalanced state pension system, although considering the state of the national financial markets Ellinger and Stein said moving toward offering a defined contribution plan, such as a 401k set-up, is probably unrealistic.

"I'm not 100 percent sure that privatizing it would be the right thing to do," Ellinger said.

They also agreed in principle on increasing taxes on cigarettes, which currently are 30 cents per pack.

Read the full story at Kentucky.com.