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Prevailing Wage Repeal, “Right-to-Work” Expected in KY Following Surprise Gov Election Result

Matt Bevin right to work prevailing wage

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In what may have been the biggest surprise of election night 2015, Matt Bevin became the second Republican in 44 years to be elected governor of Kentucky.  The wealthy Louisville businessman, whose only political experience was unsuccessfully running against Mitch McConnell in the Republican Senate primary last year, used a ‘political outsider’ and ‘hardline conservative’ platform. He insists Kentucky will become a “Right-to-Work” state and that he’ll repeal the state’s Obamacare program, Kynect.

Bevin defeated Attorney General Jack Conway, who led in polls prior to the election. Bevin won with 52.5 percent of the vote. Independent candidate Drew Curtis snagged 3.7 percent.  Only 31 percent of registered voters participated.

Speaking to his supporters at the Galt House Hotel overlooking the Ohio River in Louisville, Bevin said:

“I’m proud of the fact that this is a great night for Republicans in Kentucky and, more importantly, a great night for conservatives in Kentucky, but we have a lot of work to do.”

There is no denying the scale of the loss for labor organizations. Bevin’s “Right-to-Work” and prevailing wage repeal platform is unequivocal.  In this video, which is oddly disabled from being embeddable, he explains his plans.

Counties in Kentucky have been passing local “Right-to-Work” ordinances since December of 2014.  Opening arguments in the case that will decide the fate of these local “Right-to-Work” zones began in August and a decision by the federal judge overseeing the case is expected soon.  The issue was a major talking point in the election with Attorney General Conway questioning the legality of “Right-to-Work” zones and Bevin doubling down on his desire to take “Right-to-Work” statewide.

Bevin’s win also puts Kentucky public health in jeopardy. The Kynect program has been one of the most successful post-Affordable Care Act program.  Roughly 400,000 Kentuckians have gained health insurance from the program. Bevin has little interest in those benefits, however:

Over the last five years, term-limited Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear cut the state’s uninsured rate by more than half by accepting federal funding to expand Medicaid, and by setting up a state-run health-insurance exchange called Kynect. Today, approximately 400,000 Kentuckians have received health insurance via Medicaid expansion.

As John Oliver masterfully explained, Bevin has promised to eliminate Kynect—a bright spot at the state level amid the chaotic rollout—and he’s been cagey about his plans for Medicaid. After campaigning on repealing Obamacare wholesale during his unsuccessful 2014 Senate primary, he changed tune toward the end of his race this fall, suggesting that he would ask the administration for a waiver to restructure Medicaid but not kick anyone “to the curb.”

Up until this point, Kentucky has been one of the most compelling arguments not just for why the law was needed, but also that it can work.

Democratic Governors Association Executive Director, Elisabeth Pearson, blamed “Trump Mania” for Bevin’s surprise victory in a press release issued the morning after the election:

“Attorney General Jack Conway ran a strong campaign focused on the issues that matter to Kentuckians: good schools, good-paying jobs and economic opportunity.  Unfortunately, he ran into the unexpected headwinds of Trump-mania, losing to an outsider candidate in the year of the outsider. While Jack Conway came up just short tonight, his presence in this race strengthened the issues debate in Kentucky.”


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