Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Lunsford job plan linked to casinos

FOP backs Republican Fletcher, Democrat Richards in gubernatorial primaries

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press


LOUISVILLE - Bruce Lunsford set a goal Tuesday of creating 100,000 jobs if elected governor, a plan based in part on voters' consenting to legalize casinos.

Speaking in front of a red-white-and-blue tractor-trailer outside a Teamsters hall, the Democratic candidate said his background as state commerce secretary and private-sector CEO gives him the expertise to create jobs.

"We will stay focused; we will get those 100,000 jobs," Lunsford said. "At the end of my four years, people will say what few promises the Lunsford administration made, we kept them. And this is the one that we consider our Number 1 priority. Jobs are Number 1."

Lunsford said he supported opening six to eight casinos at sites chosen by a state gaming board, assuming Kentucky voters approved a constitutional amendment to expand gambling. "I think the public should speak on this," he said.

He estimated casinos would generate $1 billion to $2 billion in construction, create jobs in the hotel, food and entertainment industries, and produce $200 million to $600 million a year to be shared by state and local governments.

Lunsford said the constitutional amendment should dedicate the state's earnings to health care and education. He said the money should help pay prescription costs for the low-income elderly, among other things.

Meanwhile, Democratic rival Ben Chandler took a swipe at Lunsford's job-creation record. Chandler's campaign said statewide unemployment doubled while Lunsford was commerce secretary under then-Gov. John Y. Brown Jr. Left unsaid was that the Brown administration coincided with a deep national recession.

"The simple fact is that thousands of Kentuckians lost their jobs while Bruce Lunsford served as commerce secretary," Chandler campaign manager Mark Riddle said.

Riddle also ridiculed a state investment during Lunsford's tenure in a ski resort at General Butler State Park in Carroll County. Lunsford "wasted almost $4 million in taxpayers' dollars to build a ski resort where it doesn't snow," Riddle said.

In promoting his job-creation plan, Lunsford promised greater state assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs. He pledged to bring telecommunications service to underserved areas of rural Kentucky.

"That's very important because you can't move into the modern era without that," Lunsford said.

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

• Lunsford put $290,000 more into his self-financed campaign, putting his total at $7.8 million.

• The Kentucky State Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Jody Richards in the gubernatorial primaries. The lodge has 8,200 members.

Lodge president Martin Scott of Bowling Green said members of the endorsement committee had "quite a lively debate" about whom to back.

He said the candidates were evaluated on responses to four issues on a questionnaire: collective bargaining for police, improvement of the police officers' "bill of rights," maintaining current retirement entitlements, and making all state-certified police officers eligible for bonuses from a state training incentive fund.

• Rebecca Jackson and running mate Robbie Rudolph launched a motor-home tour of Republican strongholds in the 5th District, beginning at London. "There's a lot of Republicans down here. The percentage is high here," Rudolph said in a telephone interview.

Voters seem largely undecided, Rudolph said. "It does seem like a low turnout is going to happen" for the election next Tuesday, he said.

Jackson's campaign this week began airing a new television commercial that Rudolph financed with a $100,000 donation to their campaign. It seeks to emphasize Jackson's conservatism, touching on gun rights, opposition to abortion and opposition to tax increases.

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