Fletcher, Beshear Favor Easing Taxes On Horse Farmers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - No matter who gets the most votes in
Kentucky's governor's race this fall, horse farmers could be big
Both Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher and Democratic challenger
Steve Beshear said Tuesday they favor exempting horse feed and
supplies from the state sales tax.
"Right now, all of agriculture except the horse industry has a
sales tax exemption on things like buying feed and equipment,"
Beshear said during a debate. "It is time that we also give that
exemption to the horse industry."
Fletcher agreed, saying "the equine industry is our largest
agriculture industry" and the state needs to do its part to
nurture it.
Showing no signs of wear from a grueling schedule of debates,
the candidates continued their tit for tat in a sometimes
contentious prime-time faceoff that highlighted their differences
on a number of issues, including the state's role in curbing
illegal immigration in Kentucky.
While immigration is a problem nationwide, it's the federal
government's duty, not individual states, to enforce the laws
currently on the books, Beshear said.
"If we're going to take on enforcing the federal laws, that's
fine. Let's let the federal government give us the money so that we
can increase our staff and we can increase the number of folks we
need so that we can do just that," Beshear said during the debate
broadcast live on WLEX-TV and CWkyt-TV in Lexington and on 26 radio
stations across the state. "It's time for the federal government
to step up and do their job for a change - enforce the laws."
Fletcher said illegal immigration is a "major problem" that
his administration had already started to address. If given a
second term, Fletcher said his administration would push for a law
next year to address the problem.
"We are not going to allow the state of Kentucky to be a safe
haven for illegal immigrants," Fletcher said. "If the federal
government doesn't take care of it, then we will take care of it,
and we're beginning the steps to do that."
Fletcher, who has built his campaign around his opposition to
gambling, also criticized Beshear for supporting a proposed
constitutional amendment to legalize casinos in Kentucky. Fletcher
has raised the issue in more than 10 previous face-to-face meetings
with Beshear.
Fletcher, an ordained Baptist minister, has made his
antigambling stand the central theme of his campaign, claiming that
opening the state to casinos would lead to crime, broken families
and other social ills. However, Beshear has said opening casinos at
race tracks and in a handful of communities along the state's
borders would generate $500 million in additional tax revenues that
could be used to improve the lives of Kentuckians.
"It won't deliver the $500 million. Oh, it will on the front
end, but it's going to take it out of your economy on the back
end," Fletcher said. "It's a false promise, it's fool's gold."
Beshear said gambling should be considered as a form of
entertainment, similar to bingo, the lottery and pari-mutuel horse
raging - which are already legal in Kentucky.
"The only difference is that if we do allow limited gaming, and
if the people vote it in, then we can create about $500 million in
additional tax revenue that we can then use to really move our
state farther faster than we can otherwise," Beshear said.
The decision to legalize casinos would require a constitutional
amendment that must be approved by voters in a ballot referendum.
However, before such a vote could be taken, state lawmakers would
have to agree to put it on the ballot.
Beshear, a former lieutenant governor, chided Fletcher for his
indictment last year on charges of violating state hiring laws in a
scheme to reward political supporters with protected state jobs.
The indictment was later dropped in a negotiated settlement with
prosecutors, and the governor has since maintained that the
investigation was politically motivated to lessen his chances of
being re-elected.
Fletcher also claimed that Beshear profited from the bankruptcy
of Kentucky Central Life Insurance Co. while hundreds of employees
lost jobs and investors lost money.
Beshear's law firm, Stites & Harbison, was hired by the state
insurance commissioner in 1993 to assist in the liquidation of
Kentucky Central after it went into bankruptcy.
A report, prepared by independent attorneys 12 years ago, said
Beshear's law firm had a conflict of interest and should have
withdrawn from the case. The attorneys found that Beshear was not
directly involved, but that he had "general knowledge" of the
conflict of interest that he should have turned over to former
Insurance Commissioner Donald Stephens.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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