Democratic Candidates Call For More Higher Education Funding

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Ahead of next week’s primary election, Democrats running for Kentucky governor promised during a debate Wednesday to push for increased state funding for higher education.

During the hourlong televised debate — their second one this week — candidates called for expanding election laws to allow Kentuckians more time to vote. They said state-based tax incentives should be awarded to companies in high-growth sectors offering generous salaries.

And they talked in broad terms about what they hope their legacy would be if elected in November.

Except for a mild jab or two, the three leading candidates — Andy Beshear, Adam Edelen and Rocky Adkins — avoided attacking one another. There was a new dynamic in their latest debate — frequent candidate Geoff Young also participated. The state’s primary election is Tuesday.

The debate on the University of Kentucky’s campus in Lexington aired on Gray Television stations in the region. The Democrats are looking for a chance to unseat Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who is seeking a second term.

Asked what they’d do to make higher education more affordable, Beshear said he would propose funding higher education “in a way you haven’t seen in the past decade.” But he’d put conditions on increased state support, he said.

“We’re going to demand that it go to lowering tuition,” said Beshear, the state’s attorney general. “That’s something our students deserve.”

Edelen, a former state auditor, said rising tuition amounts to a “tax on hope” by putting higher education out of reach for more Kentuckians.

About two-thirds of public university budgets in Kentucky were funded by the state when he was in college, he said. Now, state funding accounts for about one-third of overall funding, he said. Edelen said he’d lead the push in urging Kentuckians to choose more affordable college over a tax code “riddled” with special-interest loopholes that cost the state needed tax revenue.

“When we have priced higher education out of the reach of the working and middle classes, not only have we made an immoral statement about who and what we are, we have signed our economic suicide note,” Edelen said.

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