LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Ernie Fletcher and his Democratic
opponent Steve Beshear disagreed during a Sunday night debate over
whether public universities in Kentucky should be allowed to offer
domestic partner benefits to their employees.
Fletcher, an ordained Baptist minister, said state money should
not fund health insurance costs for gay couples at universities.
Beshear, a former lieutenant governor, said the matter should be
left up to the schools because they compete with other universities
across the globe.
"He (Beshear) wants folks out there - taxpayers - many of which
can barely afford their own health insurance to pay for the health
insurance of gay couples at our universities," Fletcher said. "I
think there's a better way of making health care affordable and
available. That's making sure it's available for everyone, not
putting on your back the fact that Steve wants to have you pay for
health insurance for gay couples."
Beshear countered, however, claiming Fletcher had changed his
position on the issue because of politics.
"That's a local university issue and we both said that up until
this summer," Beshear said. "Universities ought to be able to
make the decision about how to fashion their health benefits
package because they're competing to bring faculty and staff from
all over the world."
Both the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky
had plans to provide health insurance coverage for domestic
partners of their employees.
The schools have both revised their plans after an attorney
general opinion in June found the benefits were in violation of the
state constitution by offering health insurance only to same-sex
and opposite-sex partners of employees.
Stumbo's opinion did not carry the force of law.
The candidates televised debate Sunday night, came just two
weeks before their showdown at the ballot box on Nov. 6. It was
broadcast live on WHAS-TV in Louisville and WTVQ-TV in Lexington.
Both candidates have met in numerous debates and joint
appearances throughout the campaign, but they're gearing up for a
grueling two-week stretch culminating on Election Day.
Fletcher has attacked Beshear for his support of a plan to
legalize casino gambling in the state. Beshear says the state can
rake in an extra $500 million per year under the plan, while
Fletcher believes it will lead to increased social problems and
hurt the state's economy.
And, there's also the ethical issues.
Both candidates have targeted each other in debates and in
television commercials regarding ethical questions.
Fletcher's administration was under investigation beginning in
2005 for allegations that his administration was skirting state
hiring laws. Fletcher was indicted on misdemeanor charges that he
had violated state hiring laws, but the indictment was eventually
dismissed in a deal with prosecutors. The governor has since
maintained that the investigation was a "political witch hunt"
aimed at hurting his chances for re-election.
Meanwhile, Fletcher has gone after Beshear for his part in the
dismantling of Kentucky Central Life Insurance Co.
Beshear's law firm, Stites & Harbison, was hired by the state
insurance commissioner to assist in the liquidation of the bankrupt
Kentucky Central. Fletcher has claimed that a 12-year-old report by
an independent law firm showed Beshear's firm had a conflict of
interest and should have withdrawn from the case.
The report said 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
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)