Gov. Matt Bevin made his re-election pitch to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce without any opposition on Friday after Democratic rival Andy Beshear declined to show up.
In a room of the state’s business leaders, Bevin touted the state’s historically low unemployment rate and record amount of investments promised by businesses moving to or expanding in Kentucky.
“Who do you want working on your behalf? If one of you had to leave your business for a period of time, a year, take a sabbatical. Would you want to leave your business to me or Andy Beshear to run in your absence?” Bevin said.
Bevin and Beshear, Kentucky’s attorney general, have been bitter rivals since they were elected in 2015 after a series of legal, policy and personal battles.
Beshear turned down the invitation to appear on stage with Bevin last week, claiming that the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce “has been a major supporter of Matt Bevin and his harmful agenda for working families.”
Bevin defended his proposal to alter Kentucky’s Medicaid program by requiring people to prove they are working, volunteering or in school in order to receive benefits, claiming “there are hundreds of thousands of people in this state who could be going to work, should be going to work and choose not to go to work.”
“That is their prerogative. They can choose that, but you should not be expected to subsidize that choice if they could choose otherwise,” Bevin said. “And it also sets a bad precedent and creates a sense of entitlement and expectation and it sets a bad example for next generations of children who see their parents not going to work and working the system.”
Bevin’s proposed Medicaid changes have been locked in a legal battle for years, with both Bevin and President Donald Trump’s administration defending them in court.
Bevin said he would push to eliminate the state’s income tax if he is re-elected, shifting Kentucky’s revenue stream towards a “consumption”-based model that relies on sales taxes and trying to get more people to move to the state.
“All the things that people talk about but for good reason that we need is only going to come if we have more people in Kentucky paying taxes. And I’d rather have more people paying less tax each,” Bevin said.
Bevin again dismissed polling from Morning Consult that shows he is the most unpopular governor in the country. Quoting former Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned amid a bribery scandal in 1973, Bevin tagged his detractors as “nattering nabobs of negativism.”
“They’re everywhere, they’re in your world, they’re in your ranks, they’re among your employees even. The best you can weed these people out and disregard them, they only distract from forward progress,” Bevin said.
Bevin said he still plans to call a special legislative session for lawmakers to pass a bill to help alleviate surging pension costs for regional universities and small state agencies. He would not confirm rumors that the session will start July 19.