Will Barnett | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Will Barnett

District/Office: 
Political party: 
Democrat
Incumbent: 
No
Question 1: 

What’s your vision for Kentucky? How will the lives of Kentuckians be improved as a result of your time in office? What legislative committees will you request to serve on once elected? 

My vision for Kentucky is one of a brighter future where we build a sustainable and successful economy by investing in people. I believe we can do this by creating the most educated, most skilled, and most in demand workforce and prioritizing worker protections and affordable healthcare to ensure those entering the workforce have the best chance at success.

Question 2: 

Even after Governor Beshear's December 2019 executive order that restored voting rights to 152,000 Kentuckians with felonies in their past, over 170,000 Kentuckians are still ineligible to vote. Do you support a constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to all Kentuckians with felonies in their past once they've served their time, probation, and parole? Why or why not?

I do. Once someone has served their time and made restitution to the satisfaction of the Commonwealth, they are deserving of the opportunity to have a say in matters that affect them.

Question 3: 

During the 2020 primary, Kentuckians voted in record numbers as a result of mail-in absentee voting and early voting. But we can improve on what we learned in the primary and make voting more accessible for all Kentuckians. What is your view on modernizing state election laws? Specifically, do you support allowing early voting, mail-in ballots, same-day voter registration, extended hours at polling locations, offering ballots in multiple languages, and other election reforms? Would you uphold or work to repeal Senate Bill 2, which makes it harder for voters who don't have particular kinds of photo ID to vote, knowing that many Kentuckians do not have – and face barriers to obtaining – those forms of ID?

Senate Bill 2 imposes an ID requirement in a year where offices that issue ID's have been closed and are still limited in their capacity to serve the public. For all the work the Secretary of State's office did to inform the public of expanded absentee and mail in ballots they have done very little to inform the public of new ID requirements. These factors combined will either turn people away at the polls or keep them from turning out at all. Expanded mail in and absentee voting are a necessity in 2020. I will work to repeal Senate Bill 2 as the arguments in support of it were unable to produce evidence of its necessity and because I believe it is in violation of the 15th amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Question 4: 

Even before COVID, Kentucky’s tax code did not raise enough revenue to meet the Commonwealth’s needs. We’ve reached dangerous levels of disinvestment in pensions, public education, infrastructure, and other essential programs. While there may be federal aid to buffer some of those impacts, we still need our own sustainable, long-term revenue solutions. What would you do to create a more equitable state tax structure – where everyone pays their fair share – that raises adequate revenue, fights poverty, and invests in Kentucky’s under-resourced communities and the services we all need?

Kentucky collects and spends roughly $11.5 Billion each biennium and leaves nearly $13 Billion on the table in uncollected revenue in the form of tax breaks and loopholes for special interests. I believe we can close the budget gap by rolling back some of those cuts and closing loopholes. The legislature has only one funding mandate laid out by the Kentucky Constitution and that is to fund education. The fact that some of these cuts take priority over education funding is blatantly unconstitutional.

Question 5: 

Many undocumented and mixed immigration status families here in Kentucky do not have access to government aid, stimulus payments, and other resources offered during this pandemic, while they’re simultaneously more likely to be essential workers and are at the highest risk for COVID-19 infection. What would you do to expand support and resources to Kentucky’s immigrant families, undocumented or otherwise, in the time of a global pandemic and beyond?

Legal immigrant families and individuals are deserving of the same support as citizens. Undocumented families still contribute to the state's revenue base through sales tax and when they lose their ability to work, they can impact costs for things like healthcare on legal immigrants and citizens alike. The EMTALA Act signed by Ronald Reagan ensures treatment in emergency rooms regardless of ability to pay or citizenship and this is one example where fiscally unstable undocumented immigrant families can impact healthcare costs for others. Ensuring their financial stability through community charity and by working for a path to legal status and citizenship for these families benefits us all.

Question 6: 

Is acting to address the climate crisis a priority for you? What policies do you support to ensure that solutions – such as clean energy jobs and reducing high energy bills – benefit all Kentuckians, including low-income communities, communities of color, and those who are most impacted by the changing climate? And what policies would you support to ensure that all Kentuckians have clean air and water, no matter the color of our skin, income, or zip code?

There is a human cost to clean energy that we in Kentucky should be especially sensitive to and that cost is the loss of a way of life for so many Kentuckians who are a part of our energy industry. Coal has put food on my table for nearly 15 years, but clean energy now employs more people than coal and the transition is not stopping. Yet we cannot leave behind those that count on coal for a living. We must invest in education and workforce development to make sure that clean energy does not leave Kentuckians behind.

Question 7: 

Kentuckians from across the state are coming together to say Black Lives Matter and to demand that all Kentuckians can move through our communities without fearing for our lives or our loved ones. What is the role of the Kentucky legislature in opposing white supremacy, addressing racial inequality and supporting racial justice for Black people, Indigenous people, and all people of color in our state? Please identify at least two policy initiatives you would propose while in office to address racial and systemic inequalities.

I am a firm believer that education is the great equalizer. By closing achievement gaps, especially among minority student populations, we can increase opportunity. This cannot be achieved if Kentucky remains the 4th worst state for cuts to education since the 2008 recession. Furthermore, the legislature can and should act against redlining practices which discourage minority owned businesses by discouraging banks and insurance companies from investing in minority communities. Breaking the cycle of systemic racism must include this kind of work to change prevent denial of opportunity.

Question 8: 

Kentucky has the ninth highest incarceration rate in the nation, is second for incarcerating women, and has the second-highest rate of children separated from a parent due to incarceration. In addition, Black Kentuckians face disproportionate arrest, conviction, and incarceration, and a heightened risk of police brutality. And people in many parts of our state face racial profiling, intimidation and unjust detainment and detention by federal and local authorities due to immigration status or perceived status. Many Kentuckians are calling for various measures to stem the tide of racialized criminalization, police brutality, mass incarceration, and detention and deportation – from police reform, to increased community investment, to a complete defunding and abolition of the police and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If elected, what will you do to make strides toward ending mass incarceration in Kentucky and reinvesting resources into the communities most impacted by this system?

There is no single sweeping action that can address all the issues raised in this question, but I will address one area that I believe will have significant impacts. Our public schools, health departments, and local law enforcement agencies are asking for help in the form of mental and behavioral health specialists aa well as social workers to address problems these entities are not trained for. These specialists can resolve and de-escalate situations and connect people with services that can help individuals. A police department in California, Kentucky hired a social worker instead of an officer and the department saw a significant savings to the department, a drop in repeat 911 calls, and solutions to problems the department had been unable to solve previously. By supporting law enforcement, schools and health departments in this way we can provide early intervention for people who are at risk of being caught up in the criminal justice system. We must make sure agencies have the recourses and tools to handle the task at hand. While we have larger needs, such as putting an end to for profit prisons and their lobbyists who push legislation aimed at keeping prisons full, and reconsidering our approach to sentencing for nonviolent offences, my aim is to help people now and I believe adding social workers and behavioral health specialists can make the quickest impact for people.

Question 9: 

Do you support a statewide Fairness law to protect LGBTQ people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, queer) from discrimination in housing, employment, financial transactions, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity? Do you support a statewide ban on the practice of LGBTQ conversion therapy, which would protect Kentucky youth from a harmful and medically discredited practice?

I support a statewide Fairness law and a ban on conversion therapy.

Question 10: 

Nearly 400,000 low-income Kentuckians qualified for health care – including vision, dental and mental health – for the first time under the Affordable Care Act. But major challenges remain, and many are exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. What would you do to make sure Kentuckians can get and stay healthy? What are your health-related legislative priorities? 

Answer 10: 

I have supported restarting KyNect which was a model exchange and now that the Governor has announced that it will return I will do all I can to support and promote its success as a way to make enrollment an easy process for all. Additionally, I believe the Medicaid expansion must be preserved for those who have no other options for coverage.