Solutions, Not Politics
I know how you feel about politics and politicians in Washington and in Frankfort.
A recent poll shows that more than 80% of you feel that politicians—Democrats and Republicans alike—are more interested in maintaining their own power and prestige than in doing what’s right for the people.
That’s how I feel, too. And that’s why I’m running as an Independent for governor.
I’ll tell you right away that I have no experience as a politician. I’m a Kentucky entrepreneur and technology builder, and I’m running as a citizen candidate for governor.
My promise to you is to be independent from politics as usual, independent from politics of the past, and independent from political cronyism and corruption.
Like you, I want a government that creates more solutions, not just more politics.
Like you, I don’t want a government that makes decisions that are good for the Democrats, or good for the Republicans, or good for the lobbyists or fundraisers.
Like you, I want a government that will create the best solutions for Kentucky and the people of Kentucky.
We can make that happen.
We’ve had government run by the Republicans and run by the Democrats. Either way, we’ve too often had government that has been inefficient, ineffective, and unaccountable. I’m an internet entrepreneur from Lexington, but anybody who runs a small business can tell you: if Kentucky was a business, it would be out of business.
We’ve got to bring our state government into the 21st Century, using new technologies—nothing exotic; just the kind of tech that all of us use in our businesses and homes - to make our state agencies more efficient, effective, and way more transparent and forward-looking.
What we need most is old-fashioned common sense, though. That's going to be the bedrock of every policy decision I make as governor. Since I'm a true Independent, I don't come with a prepackaged set of political stances. So here, in broad strokes, are my thoughts on a few important issues. I'm going to unpack them and others in separate posts in the coming weeks.
I do not have all of the good ideas. In fact, the problem is politicians that think they do. I will listen to good ideas from anyone and I fully encourage you to contact me if you think you have one. I don’t care what your ideology is--all ideas, regardless of the source, deserve equal consideration.
I refuse to subject Kentucky to experiments, but anything that has worked in another state is worth considering. We have serious problems to solve and the state budget has no room for trial and error. Sweeping changes often create unintended consequences and should be avoided at all costs. So we must consider all angles of an issue, and factor in the costs and problems with implementation when we design laws
Personal liberty is incredibly important to me, as it is with all Kentuckians. Personal liberty is not just a conservative ideal, or a liberal ideal, or a libertarian ideal. It is not a political football to allow some people to regulate other people’s lives. We need to finally put a priority on personal liberty for everyone, not just for some.
Other politicians claim we have only two choices with state government: raise revenues or cut spending. There is a third option: increase productivity and streamline government functions to make government work better
That said, we do need to cut spending. But we must cut it with a scalpel, not a chainsaw. We need to make smart choices and make sure that where we’re cutting can truly be spared. Government can't be run like a business, but it can be run more efficiently
We must also make the state government more streamlined. Any necessary government document should be obtainable online and be valid in electronic form. Getting the government out of its own way saves both the state and everyday citizens time and money.
We can also use the internet to keep the state government as transparent as possible. As they say, sunshine is the best disinfectant.
Kentucky's Underfunded Pension System
This is the number one threat facing Kentucky by far. For 12 years, a bipartisan effort by legislators and governors stole money from state workers by not paying the state's actuarially required contribution (ARC) every year, creating tens of billions of off-balance sheet debt. If the funding problem is not fixed, Kentucky will go bankrupt by 2018. Neither of the other two candidates appear to be aware of this
I have created a highly detailed plan, complete with spreadsheet so you can check my math, to fix Kentucky's pension system using the least amount of money. In short, it works like this: the state invests our pension funds so they can increase in liquidity over time even as the state takes out a little every year to pay pensioners. But now the fund is so small that we don’t have enough to keep making payments and grow the fund through interest.
So here’s what we do: We take out a bond and structure it as a line of credit. In years when the pension fund isn’t earning enough interest, we tap into the line of credit to help make up the difference. In years when the pension fund investments are earning an above-average return, we use the overage to pay down on the line of credit. This way we pay interest only on what we need when we need it--not on the whole bond at once. Payments will be able to go out to pensioners every month, new workers can sign up for pension plans, and we’ll be able to grow the fund’s liquidity. In future years, compound interest will grow the fund back to 100 percent and beyond. You can read more about this here.
Kentucky's tax code in dire need of an overhaul. We should keep taxes as low as possible, but we must have working roads, schools, law enforcement, and other necessities.
The first thing we need to do is simplify our tax code. A complex tax system creates a drag on the economy. We can streamline things by eliminating unfair deductions, starting with small ones and moving up the chain.
We must also assess our taxation methods. Sales tax unfairly burdens the poor, while income tax unfairly burdens the rich. However, we must have taxation for government to function. Our blend of taxation methods must create a robust tax portfolio capable of surviving economic downturns.
One thing we can do is restructure income tax brackets as multiple of Median Household Income (Kentucky 2014: $41,141). That way tax brackets will automatically update themselves because they are tied to real time economic factors. That’s fair to Kentuckians.
We can help build an opportunity economy around the jobs of tomorrow. We’ve already got a solid foundation in aerospace parts, aerospace products, and motor vehicle parts; a total of almost $14 billion in exports from Kentucky. Let’s build on that foundation of stable, well-paying jobs.
A well-trained workforce is the number one factor in companies deciding to expand in or move to Kentucky. The KYFAME program (kyfame.com) has done a stellar job in a 22-county area in Central Kentucky. It's time to expand this program to the rest of the state.
Technology training is of utmost importance. Tech jobs are in high demand and pay far more than the median income. I'm the only candidate with a technology background--I've built broadband networks and I know how to code. Every person who learns to code creates a direct revenue benefit to the state of $15,000 over 5 years. Training costs far less than that.
Business incentives are good but only when structured properly. We can't just hand out blank checks. Businesses need to prove there is a benefit to the incentives they are seeking. We should fund anything that creates more income than it costs.
Attracting outside investment is also key. I have deep contacts within Silicon Valley venture capital circles--I can get their attention. Eastern Kentucky is very similar geographically to Boulder, Colorado--the tech boom there can be repeated here.
The problems some people have with the confederate flag issue in South Carolina and the Jefferson Davis statue in our own capital have more to do with the method used to remove them. No kneejerk reaction has ever been better than a well thought-out response built with input from both sides of an issue. I propose a six-week timeout on Outrage Politics issues legislation to give people time to calm down and react more rationally to sensitive issues.
Voters support raising Kentucky’s minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. I’m in favor of this. In particular I’d like to copy Ohio’s minimum wage law, which scales with cost of living increases.
The usual narrative here is that raising minimum wage hurts business. But large corporations have started to realize that what hurts business more is unhappy, underpaid employees and the cost of retraining new employees when they quit to find higher pay.
Most people aren’t aware that the CEO of McDonalds is in favor of a higher minimum wage. Wal-Mart recently raised its minimum salary across the board for both new hires and existing employees. Costco for years has paid much higher than minimum wage.
Minimum wage increases do hurt small businesses however. I would suggest exempting small businesses from a minimum wage increase. In the long term this won’t hold down wages because employees have the option to choose to work for larger companies for a bigger salary if they prefer.
Right to Work
I’ve looked into this and the short version is that I don’t see enough evidence to make a call on this yet. If it was easy, we’d have solved the issue already. That said, I would veto Right To Work legislation--for now. If new data becomes available I will check it out. I am not tied to my position on this--new data can change my mind.
But let me make an important point here: I’m the only candidate capable of examining this issue and making a call based on what benefits the public the most. A Democrat will always veto Right to Work, and a Republican will always pass it--because both parties’ stance on this issue has been bought outright by influence money. I do not have a dogmatic position on this issue one way or the other.
Hemp and Marijuana
I am fully in support of both hemp and whole-plant medicinal marijuana. In these tough economic times, promising revenue streams should be encouraged. Additionally, the medicinal benefits to marijuana have been known for a long time now and we have thousands of people in Kentucky who can benefit from it. We have proven models from other states that these can work and once we have a proven and successful model for legalized recreational marijuana (which should be soon), I will be in support of that too.
Kentucky will have to start paying for some of the costs of Medicaid expansion in 2017. We can probably afford picking up 5 percent of the costs then, but maybe not when it increases to 10 percent in 2020. A Deloite study on the issue indicates that revenues from an increase in healthcare activity will cover Kentucky’s contribution. I’ll keep an eye on this just in case that doesn’t work out.
I would like to call in experts in operations and systems design to do an audit of how KYNect currently functions and see what can be improved. I would also open a dialogue with both healthcare professionals and patients to collect information on how well the system is serving both groups. In the start-up world we call this Customer Development: Before you create a product, see if anyone wants it. Luckily, Customer Development is effective even after you’ve started production.
I am against repealing KYNect at this time. For one thing, nobody has a proposal for a better replacement. Additionally, health care service providers just spent millions of dollars upgrading their computer systems and training their employees to accommodate KYNect. Let’s give them a break for a few years before ordering another massive overhaul. This will also give us time to evaluate how well KYNect works vs. solutions that other states may come up with.
I’ve heard some good ideas so far, but when it comes down to it, we need to listen to what teachers say they need over anything else, provided we can make the budget work. Education funding is the last thing I would recommend cutting in the state budget.
Our childrens’ education is not the government’s piggy bank to break whenever politicians feel like showing their ability to cut the budget. Kids deserve to have all the best educational and economic opportunities.
So do our university students. We’ve got a great university system in Kentucky, and where there are well-supported community colleges and universities, there are new jobs and new industries created.
Our universities should help create a model for our high schools—to point people toward careers, not just a degree. Early college high schools are a proven model across the country--as well as here in Kentucky--and we should consider implementing them across the state.
Let’s not get into a philosophical political argument about what the government should do and what the private sector should do. It’s simple: If the private sector can do it better, more effectively, and faster, then let’s get government out of the way. But if government can do it better, then let’s stop arguing and just make it work for everybody. I’m telling you, this is not as hard as the politicians make it look.
This issue has been decided at the federal level. Injustice and inequality are relics that should be left to the history books. If standing against gay marriage is your primary political issue, you seriously need to re-examine your priorities in life.
However, no one should feel forced to celebrate or participate in gay marriage either, especially if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. Rep. Addia Wuchner (R) has filed a bill that would prevent anyone from having to perform or join in a ceremony, but would require anyone whose job it is to issue marriage licenses to do so. This is a sound bill and as Governor I would pass it.
The current heroin bill that passed the legislature isn't perfect but it’s an improvement on what we have on the books now. Going forward, I’d like to see a push for decriminalizing addiction. It’s harder for addicts to seek help when just being an addict is a crime.
Massachusetts has passed an interesting program focused on tackling opiate addiction. I’ll keep an eye on it and if it does prove successful Kentucky should copy it.
I’d also like to approach this issue from a different direction: disrupting the economy of illegal drug manufacturing and production. Reducing profits to the black market economy reduces crime across the board.
Kentucky Certified Worker Program
As proposed by Will T. Scott during the GOP primary, this would allow drug courts and prison wardens to give deserving parolees and serve-outs a certificate after finishing the skill-rehabilitation program. Businesses that hire workers out of the the Kentucky Certified Worker Program would be reimbursed for any losses they suffer due to the employee’s misconduct or criminal activity.
It’s a win-win for everyone: ex-prisoners who are gainfully employed will be less likely to reoffend, which makes our streets safer. And businesses will gain hardworking employees eager to prove themselves and make a fresh start.
Here’s an area for state government and private industry to work together. We’ve got to have the roads, rails, and bridges that we can drive into the future. We will make investments in infrastructure, but we must also protect those investments. Proactive maintenance is the best way to do that, so we need to make sure maintenance costs are anticipated and fully funded.
We must also ensure that every Kentuckian has access to broadband internet It’s just as important as good roads in bringing jobs to rural areas. I have the tech background to make sure we do this right.
Ex-Felon Voting Rights
Rand Paul has put forth a proposal to restore voting rights to non-violent ex-felons who have served their time. We should take a look at bringing this idea to Kentucky as well, something Paul has lobbied for at the state legislature in the past.
(Photo Credit: The State-Journal)