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By JOHN FRIEDLEIN
ELIZABETHTOWN — Economic issues played a large role in a Thursday night debate between candidates running for this area’s two state House district seats.
With funds drying up in Frankfort, whoever is elected this November likely will be faced with making painful cuts or raising taxes.
Jimmie Lee, the 25th District Democratic incumbent, said lawmakers have cut the fat from human services and education, and further reductions would be to the “muscle and the blood of those programs.”
During the News-
Enterprise-sponsored forum at the Hardin County Schools district office, Lee brought up the possibility of bolstering government coffers through increasing taxes, such as on cigarettes, which Lee said drain taxpayers through medical expenses.
His Republican challenger, Lisa Williams, pounced on talk of hikes.
“I think we’re all just taxed to death,” she said.
To save money, Williams called for better oversight of programs such as Medicaid and discussed the possibility of converting state vehicles to natural gas to save money on fuel.
Lee, whom Williams called a “good old boy,” hit back with an attack on her lack of experience. He said her lack of experience working with certain committees might affect how lawmakers fund future infrastructure improvements for the realignment of Fort Knox to an administrative center. The changes will bring more high-paying civilian jobs and business opportunities to the area.
Williams, who deals with work force issues through the state-backed entrepenuarial development center, acknowledged the importance of the Army’s Base Realignment and Closure initiative.
“Everything is going to be affected by BRAC,” she said.
The 26th District seat candidates, both of whom have military backgrounds, also stressed the importance of the post realignment.
Democrat Mike Weaver, former 26th District legislator, said first-term Republican incumbent Tim Moore has not been engaged in the BRAC process.
Moore, however, said he will continue to work with leadership to make sure the state succeeds in this endeavor. He also said the federal government should help with expenses. Local school systems, for instance, must educate the additional children expected.
With all of the economic pressures facing the state, candidates discussed ways to raise money other than taxes.
For instance, they split along party lines on letting voters decide whether to allow casinos, with Republicans less open to the idea.
“We can always find and use more dollars, but I don't believe casinos are the way to do it,” Moore said.
Instead, he suggested getting rid of a law that requires schools and other institutions to pay the “prevailing wage” for building construction.
Weaver said he doesn’t want to scrap the law, although it could be made more acceptable to school systems.
In addition to financial issues, both 26th District candidates stressed bipartisanship and frequently discussed religion.
Weaver during Thursday’s debate was aggressive on the issue of working across the aisle.
“It is a critical time in the history of this area to put somebody back in Frankfort who knows how to work in a bipartisan way,” he said.
John Friedlein can be reached at (270) 505-1746.