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GOP Leaders: Expanded Gaming Dead On Arrival In Senate

AP Photo/Matthew Brown

Republican leaders in the Kentucky Senate say one of the Democratic candidate for governor’s often-touted solutions for fixing the pension system is a non-starter in the General Assembly. 

When asked about his plan to fund the state’s flagging retirement system, there’s one answer you can bet on from Attorney General Andy Beshear.

"I believe that we have to create new additional revenue dedicated solely to our pension system. It starts with expanded gaming, where we can realize up to $550 million dollars a year," the Democrat repeated during Wednesday night's gubernatrial debate on WKYT-TV. 

But weeks before Kentuckians even go to the polls to choose their next governor, top GOP leaders in the state Senate are making it clear that there’s no appetite for that pension funding fix.

In a statement, Senate President Robert Stivers and Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer say expanded gaming is being sold as a “panacea” and that there is “absolutely no chance any such effort would pass the Senate in an upcoming session.”  

The Republican leaders also say the estimated revenue expanded gaming could produce has been drastically overstated and the chamber will “continue to develop legislation that creates a better economic environment for the cultivation of job opportunities,” which will lead to more tax revenue.

Beshear’s father, former Gov. Steve Beshear, unsuccessfully championed expanded gaming during his eight years in office.

Update (10/18/19): Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey released this response: "There’s bi-partisan support for expanded gaming in Kentucky. Every year since I’ve been in office, I’ve sponsored a bill to legalize expanded gaming, and we usually have Republican co-sponsors. The reality is, we’re flushing this money down the drain to neighboring states to fix their roads and schools, and to fund their pensions.There’s a reason these casinos are built right along our border. Expanding gaming won’t fix all of Kentucky’s problems, but it would be a good start. And we should let the voters vote on whether they want it in 2020." 

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.