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From the archives: Interviews with the candidates

Democrat John Y. Brown and Republican Louie B. Nunn discuss some of the issues one of them will face as Kentucky’s next Governor.

Taken from the October 1979 issue of the Rural Kentuckian.

On Tuesday, November 6, Kentuckians will choose the man who, as Governor, will lead the state for the next four years. Before the fall campaign began, KAEC representatives met with Democratic candidate John Y. Brown, Jr., and his Republican opponent Louie B. Nunn, to learn their views on a wide range of issues. The following interviews are the result of those meetings.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: In your opinion, what issues should receive priority during the next administration?

BROWN: My first priority is to try to bring together the most talented, experienced and dedicated management team to operate state government because no governor is going to have all the answers. We’re going to have some real financial crunches we’re going to have to face up to. We’re going to have (a possible cutback in) revenue sharing. The last legislature took away $35 million in tax revenues. The energy problem in this country could affect Kentucky. The gross national product is going to be down. So we’ve got financial concerns. We can always use better management.Once I’ve got the management team I want and have restructured state governmentto eliminate as much red tape as possible, I feel like the next major issue facing Kentucky is what we can do to develop our economic opportunities. How do we promote Kentucky products? Our problems, looked at from a broad view, are very simple — we’re a poor state. We have to be agressive and attract new business here. It’s a matter of salesmanship. Kentucky has an old, backward image that’s not really appropriate. Those, to me, are the two major issues— management of state government and the development of our economic opportunities.

NUNN: The issues that should receive priority in my next administration would be governmental waste, expenditures, cost of living and inflation, education, agriculture, roads — with special emphasis on farm-to-market roads — and making the economic climate conducive to industrial development. An energy program would also be one of the top priorities in terms of industrial development and the economic climate.


RURAL KENTUCKIAN: What role do you see for the state in developing a comprehensive energy program?

BROWN: There are two areas which need the most attention. One is how and where can we better market our coal? (Second), I want to find out who has the best technology and where it has been going, and I want to attract investment and free enterprise to Kentucky. I want to develop our potential as close to our coal fields as I can. Unfortunately, we’re not as far along as we should be in technology. We can’t just go into programs to convert coal when we don’t know what the cost is going to be. I’m having the best people in Kentucky put together recommendations for me as far as how to attract technology to Kentucky and which types of technology seem to have the most promise.

NUNN: I would propose a blanket exemption for the state so we could reduce our thermostats to 70 degrees. This would probably increase productivity in our plants where it would bemore comfortable for the people to work. More significantly, it would increase the use of coal to generate power. This would put our miners back to work and truckers to haul it and the overall effect would be beneficial. About 98 percent of the power in Kentucky comes from coal-powered generating plants. There isn’t any saving to the oil program from setting the thermostats higher. The second phase would be for an immediate conversion back to coal of power plants outside the state which are now burning oil. This would help the energy problem by saving oil and it would also improve the economy of Kentucky by helping our coal sales. In the meantime, to help make gasoline available and diesel oil to farmers and fuel oil to heat homes, I would recommend that the coal-fired furnaces in the west and the midwest that are running less than 50 to 60 percent of capacity be moved up to 90 percent to 100 percent of capacity and that during the non-peak periods we wheel that power to areas where it is needed. I would strongly recommend that the federal Environmental Protection Agency examine all the standards for our plants and bring the standards to the minimum requirements to protect the health and safety of the people. The long-range plan on the energy situation should be a combination effort by the state and federal government to put coal-powered generating plants in areas where we have the water available in coal producing communities. We’ve got some lakes in eastern Kentucky and maybe some in western Kentucky that would accommodate power plants and are close to the coal fields. And we’re having flood problems in areas of eastern Kentucky. By the construction of a series of dams by the Corps of Engineers, that could provide flood control and make available water for industrial purposes and for generating power, we can do several things. That type of installation would give us consistent, dependable power. This is what people are going to be looking for. The government has said the (coal) liquefaction proposal is not adaptable in this country for two reasons — economics and the environment. I strongly recommend that we look to (coal) gasification rather than liquefaction whereby we can maintain the air quality standards and produce a source of energy to which many large facilities could convert rather easily. (Editors note: Liquefaction converts coal to a product similar to fuel oil. Gasification converts it to a natural gaslike product.) With this energy program there are companies who will come in and develop industrial sites close to the source of power. It could be so distributed over the state that we could maintain out air quality standards and prepare sources of employment within 25 to 30 miles of practically every Kentuckian.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Do you believe the fuel adjustment clause is a fair way for utilities to deal with rising fuel costs?

BROWN: I was for it even though itwas an unpopular issue in the (primary) campaign. I thought it made sense. I felt like it saved the consumer. Public hearings (on rate increase requests) do not save the consumer anything, they cost him money. I think the responsibility of state government, whether it’s the attorney general’s office or the Energy Regulatory Commission, is to insure that the utilities are properly managed and properly motivated to buy right in the best interest of consumers.

NUNN: I think that it is the most equitable way to deal with it. However. I would hope that rising fuel costs would stabilize so that we could fix permanent rates and the fuel adjustment clause would be used for adjustments rather than as a permanent procedure.

The Rural Kentuckian, October 1979.


RURAL KENTUCKIAN: How do you feel about a so-called “lifeline” utility pricing plan whereby residential customers would pay a reduced rate for minimum amount of electricity but higher rates for amounts above that?

BROWN: Philosophically I’d like to find other ways to subsidize those who need help.

NUNN: I’m opposed to it because of the detrimental effect it will have on many farm people and small business and because it’s putting the utility companies into the welfare business. State government has enacted legislation and appropriated money to pay the utility bills of the needy and the elderly and others who are not financially able to pay their bills. I prefer to use that method.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Would you propose any changes in Kentucky’s present utility regulatory procedure?

BROWN: I believe a close look at the present structure of the Energy Regulatory Commission is in order and that some legislation may be needed to correct errors made when the PSC was divided. If properly structured and operated, the Commission would function fairly to all parties concerned.

NUNN: It has only been in effect for a short period of time. I’m going to scrutinize it very closely and I would not hesitate to recommend changes if it doesn’t function in a prompt, fair and equitable way. Its functior should be to see that adequate services at a fair price are rendered to the consumer while affording the utilities the necessary resources to continue services expected by the consumer.


RURAL KENTUCKIAN: What specificaction would you take to help the coal industry?

BROWN: There is a critical need to integrate and coordinate all policy and procedural aspects of coal production, use and development in Kentucky, if we are to rationally and effectively promote our most valuable energy resource. In order to comprehensively deal with the impacts of coal production and use within the Commonwealth, and to maximize the economic and other benefits that can be realized, it is imperative that we establish a coal policy council within the Office of the Governor.

The purpose of the council will be to facilitate the fact finding and information gathering needs upon which decisions are to be made, to provide a mechanism for making those decisions, and to oversee and mandate the expression and implementation of these policies and objectives. Disputes as to interrelated matters can and must be arbitrated by the council and clear direction must be provided both to the private and governmental sectors.

Further, the council will serve to coordinate all coal-related governmental activities within the state. The intended purpose will be to actively reduce regulatory, administrative and policy overlap and contradiction within state government.

The council will consist of two components— an advisory task force of individuals, external to state government, with expertise in various fields related to coal and an interagency task force with ex officio membership from various state agencies. The first responsibility of the council will be to develop a comprehensive state coal policy position in concert with state agencies having regulatory or developmental responsibility over Kentucky’s coal industry and the economy. The council will also develop a presence in Washington, and perhaps internationally, to deal with federal, stateand foreign coal issues. This will be a critical and competitive aspect of the process.

NUNN: I would move the permitting offices out into the coal producing fields. I would change the attitude of the inspection service to one of seeing how many mining operations they can keep open and not how many they can close. I would set up a division of coal in the Department of Commerce to help market the coal both at home and abroad and also to monitor and fight the unnecessary rules and regulations arising in Washington.


The severance tax would be utilized to maintain the coal haul roads because we’ve got to get the coal out in order to utilize the resources. I’d also change the attitude of the Department of Transportation on the hauling of coal by truckers. Last, but not least, I’d not hesitate to do legal battle with the federal government on regulations that would hamper the production of coal in our state.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Would you favor state income tax incentives for energy conservation?

BROWN: Yes. I think we need to give incentive and motivation where we need the most help and that’s one way of doing it.

NUNN: For elderly and needy the federal government has programs for insulation. I’m a bit reluctant to pay people to do what they need to do themselves that would be an economic advantage to them and would also help solve a national crisis.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Would you anticipate making any changes in Kentucky’s present tax structure?

BROWN: Our tax program is the fifth highest in the country on low and medium incomes of $10,000 to $25,000. My program recommends that we shift approximately $40 million from the low-to-medium category to the higher tax brackets consistent with the federal income tax. (I also favor) other benefits such as tax credits for small businesses to allow them to take advantage of loss carry forwards and loss carry backs. I think I’m also going to recommend piggybacking (state income tax returns onto) federal returns.

(Editor’s note: Using the “piggyback” procedure a person’s state income tax would be computed as a percentage of his federal tax.) There are some philosophical questions about taking too much power from the state to the federal government. But there’s a law under which the federal government will collect your taxes, audit your taxes, prosecute for your taxes and send you a check for it. We’d still have to monitor the program very closely, but this would save state government approximately $4 million. It would save the taxpayers $6 million to $8 million just in administrative costs.



RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Do you believe state environmental controls should ever exceed those imposed by the federal government?

BROWN: We’re over federally regulated now. If the federal government imposesthe regulations it ought to pay thecost of enforcing them. States have put themselves in a position, sometimes at great costs to their constituencies, to enforce regulations that might be dropped if you said, “OK, Congress, you did it now take care of it.”

NUNN: No, unless it was a very limited special situation where you had an operation that was damaging to the particular isolated area or community. Then it becomes a health matter and not an environmental one.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Should air pollution standards apply equally throughout the state?

BROWN: Air pollution standardsmust be applied to the degree that we donot destroy our life-giving needs. We are faced now with deciding on what quality of life we enjoy and cannot restrict the production of energy and goods, while demanding more jobs and better goods delivery. Striking the proper balance will not be an easy task, but I believe we can find the solution.

NUNN: No. You may have critical areas that would require greater standards because of concentrations of people or the type of industry they have in the area. However, it could not be administered to give preference to one community over another.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: Would you favor or oppose legislation that would prohibit the sale of non-returnable beverage containers?

BROWN: Though I am very interested that Kentucky should be free of litter. I am not convinced that a bill of this nature is the acceptable answer.

NUNN: I think they ought to be able to sell non-returnable beverage containers.


RURAL KENTUCKIAN: The cost of over-regulation is said by many to be approaching the ridiculous. How do you feel?

BROWN: Over-regulation at both federal and state levels has greatly increased costs for doing business. Often, conflicting regulations are filed at different levels of government. We must simplify these procedures to facilitate business. Unnecessary regulations are causing both emotional and financial stress on people and business. Better review of regulation filings could prevent many problems.

NUNN: I feel that they are most ridiculous. I expect to eliminate and cutout every one that can be eliminated. The best evidence of that is that I vetoed more unnecessary laws as governor than any governor had ever vetoed.

RURAL KENTUCKIAN: What methods would you use to attract business and industry to Kentucky?

BROWN: My personal experience in business and resulting contacts with others in industrial, business and financial areas uniquely qualifies me to represent Kentucky in our quest to attract desirable economic growth to the Commonwealth. I intend a vigorous campaign to see the Kentucky image and its resources presented to investors so that our position will be one of leadership among the states. Then, we will have the economic base to improve our educational system and network of roadsresulting in a better quality of life for all Kentuckians.

NUNN: The first thing I’d do would be to change the workmen’s compensation laws. I would be sure that the leadership of the state did not take on a pro-labor or pro-industry attitude in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in matters of labor relations. I would get Kentuckians qualified under the Environmental Protection Act to determine that the required governmental regulations are being complied with so that communities that are trying to develop water and sewer systems and other utility services would stop having to go to Washington and Atlanta and having their projects delayed and made more expensive as a result of inflation. I’d recommend the repeal of the prevailing wage laws. I would use the lieutenant governor’s office to study each community to determine the type of industry it could best accommodate based on available manpower, utilities, topography, transportation and all the other factors used to make prospective industrialists interested in coming here. I would not go to a tax structure, as my opponent has proposed, that would come forward with a graduated tax on corporations of two percent up and neither would I recommend an added 15 percent personal income tax on people who make in excess of $35,000. Not many corporate officers are going to look very long at a state where their business and they as individuals are going to be penalized because they are doing well.

Finally, as part of our educational program we’re going to vocational colleges in which we are going to train people to be electricians, welders, carpenters and to go into the health services. I know we’ve lost some (industry) because we didn’t have the facilities to adequately train our people.


RURAL KENTUCKIAN: What aspects of education do you think warrant particular attention at this time?

BROWN: Past support for education has resulted in some improvement, but until we increase our jobs, income and production levels, Kentucky can have little more than a maintenance program. New revenues from new tax-paying businesses attracted to the state are our best hope for having sufficient money to improve the quality of education offered in Kentucky schools. Vocational education needs special attention and my administration goals include upgrading training offered those already in or about to enter the market. Better trained personnel have higher incomes, resulting in more people with opportunities to participate in our American style of life. We must work hard to find the resources needed to provide a total educational system satisfactory to all who would learn.

NUNN: Vocational education, special education, the whole educational process in Kentucky needs immediate attention to take the politics out of education, put the money where it belongs, restore public confidence, create a disciplinary program that makes the classroom conducive to teaching and learning and setup a family educational program whereby our schools are utilized 18 hours a day, 12 months out of the year.

The preceding article was published so that our readers might be better informed about the candidates for governor in this year’s election. Each candidate was also invited to purchase advertising space in this issue of the magazine. The candidates’ response to those invitations in no way reflects the feelings of KAEC or its members toward either candidate.

The 1979 Kentucky gubernatorial election was held on November 6, 1979. Democratic nominee John Y. Brown Jr. defeated Republican nominee Louie Nunn with 59.41% of the vote.

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