Billy Harper Discusses Plan for Kentucky’s Future in Fifth Forum at Campbellsville University

By Ashley Sidebottom, staff writer

CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – Campbellsville University hosted her fifth in a series of gubernatorial candidate forums with Republican candidate for governor Billy Harper speaking about his “vision and plan” for the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s future.

The non-politician racecar driver said the only political offices he would ever run for are “local school board and governor.”

He put up his own money to enter the governor’s race, and it was “not to buy the office, but to invest in the state,” Harper said.

Harper said he felt like unless he did something to change the course of government in the Commonwealth, he could not complain about how things were going.

“I am disappointed in the accomplishments (Fletcher) has made since his election,” but Harper promised to maintain a positive campaign and said he will not “bash” the current governor.

Harper is currently the only gubernatorial candidate to have signed a “no tax increase pledge,” and said “Kentucky needs to get more efficient, not necessarily get more money.”

“We have to look at every dollar we spend and see if a more efficient way (of spending it) is available,” Harper said.

Harper said he believes in a smaller government, lower taxes, better education and allowing the people to decide where extra government money should go.

“The alternative minimum tax (AMT) is not a way to get new business in Kentucky,” Harper said.

His first act as governor, if elected, he said would be to repeal the AMT.

“We’ve got to start dealing with the tough issues” such as education, health care and the economy, Harper said.

Harper is “opposed to abortion, against gun control” but said he “loves Kentucky and we have to make Kentucky great.”

“I am opposed to universal health care,” but Harper said he endorsed “universal wellness” instead. He said we have to start learning about quitting smoking, avoiding obesity and living healthy lifestyles. Harper also said, though, that an interim healthcare plan might be necessary during the transition to “universal wellness.”

“The more education you have, the less your insurance is going to cost,” Harper said.

Another benefit of more education, Harper said, is that the average entry-level job now has higher requirements than just a high school diploma.

“High schools need higher standards” in order to help prepare people for the workforce who will not be entering post-secondary education.

“The focus needs to be on economic development and to put it on companies that will stay here and help Kentucky grow,” Harper said.

Harper also said the issues with a right to work law are “marketing issues, not labor issues,” and he “would push for” a right to work law in the Commonwealth.

Some of the other issues discussed at the forum included gaming, privatization, leadership style and government spending.

Harper said the leadership in Frankfort should “incorporate everyone.”

“The governor sets the vision and the legislature gets a part in putting together that vision.”

As for privatization, Harper said that bridges and interstates should be looked at for more efficient ways of utilizing and financing them. He would consider tolls and lottery funds, as well as improving accounting methods.

“I am an advocate of a six-year-road plan based on statewide need and priorities. That way everybody knows when their road will be built,” Harper said.

Harper said he is completely opposed to gaming because “it is morally wrong” and it takes money “from the wrong people.”

“It’s like telling people ‘there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.’ It doesn’t make sense,” Harper said.

Harper touched on funding teachers’ pensions and said it would be necessary to “figure out how much money we need and how to make it work,” and that we would also “have to change the retirement system” for future employees, but that all changes would have to be made at the same time to work.

Campbellsville Mayor Brenda Allen said funding for local teachers’ pensions is especially difficult and “it’s an issue that’s breaking smaller cities and counties because we don’t have the money to keep paying more.”

Harper said in an effort to deal with the Senate president and House speaker, he would “meet one on one” with both individuals to find out “what they are trying to accomplish” and create a “group plan” of action. He also said he would propose his own legislative agenda.

“If we are going to build a legacy, we have to make the people want to work, live and go to school here. We have to do the hard work to get the changes done, but the right changes won’t be seen for many years.”

Harper urged the audience to “vote for (someone), not against someone else” in the upcoming gubernatorial primary.

Dr. Mary Wilgus, dean of the college of arts and sciences at CU, welcomed everyone to the forum, and the Rev. David Walters, pastor of Lowell Avenue Baptist Church and vice president for admissions and student services at CU, provided the invocation for the event. Ron McMahan, executive director of Team Taylor County, introduced Harper.

The sessions are sponsored by CU’s Kentucky Heartland Institute for Public Policy (KHIPP) and Team Taylor County.

John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations at CU and executive assistant to the president, who is the founder of KHIPP, said all of the major candidates have been asked to participate in the forums.

Each gubernatorial forum is open to the public.

Chowning said each of the candidates will also be featured on his TV-4 television show, “Dialogue on Public Issues” which is shown on Mondays and Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m., Mondays at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesdays at 7 p.m.

Announcements will be made on each candidate forum during the series.

“We invite everyone to come hear these candidates and to watch the show on our TV-4,” said Chowning.

For more information on the events, contact Chowning at (270) 789-5520 or at

Campbellsville University, now celebrating her Centennial year, is a private, comprehensive institution located in South Central Kentucky. Founded in 1906, Campbellsville University is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention and has an enrollment of 2,310 students who represent 100 Kentucky counties, 32 states and 28 foreign nations. Listed in U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges” 14 consecutive years as one of the leading Southern master’s colleges and universities, Campbellsville University is located 82 miles southwest of Lexington, Ky., and 80 miles southeast of Louisville, Ky. Dr. Michael V. Carter is in his eighth year as president.

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