Coulson is focusing on policy differences in race for district House of Reprentative seat
Democrat Greg Coulson was content on riding his motorcycles, raising his daughter, working in his law firm and “talking smack on Facebook” when he figured it was either “saddle up or shut up.”
“We’re running to try and return some of the focus in politics on the working-people issues. We feel it has strayed a little further in the other direction than it should,” Coulson says, explaining why he decided to enter the race for the 78th-district house seat.
Growing up in Grant County and living in Harrison County, he is very familiar with those “real people” everyday issues.
He sees the anger of real people as contributing to the toxic tone of today’s politics.
“One of the things I’ve noticed is there is not a lot of room for disagreement right now because as soon as somebody disagrees with you, they’re a bad person.
We’ve ramped up our policy points to a point that if you disagree with me on something, then your values are wrong and you are a bad human being. We have to change that.”
He offers the thought that we have to focus on policy and not the person.
“We just think really, really differently about policy, and I am highly critical of the policy that was passed. November 6 is the election, but we have to wake up on November 7 and live with each other,” he says. His career as a lawyer has probably has helped him develop this mindset. As he mentions concerning the upcoming Ky. Supreme Court case on pensions, in the legal world, you win some cases and you lose some cases.
“Of course,” says Coulson on whether he would accept a Ky. Supreme Court decision on whether the passage of the pension bill was constitutional.
He adds, “You don’t burn down a judicial system just because you disagree with what a judge determines the law to be.”
As a lawyer, he points out that he has lost cases and has been seething as he walked out of the courtroom, but you have to accept them.
“The argument right now is that it violated the Ky. Constitution because it didn’t comply with that three-day reading,” says Coulson. He relies on his expertise in Constitutional law to explain the three choices that the Supreme Court has.
One, they can say that the legislature did something wrong, but with separation of powers, there is nothing the judicial branch can do about it. That would mean the bill would stay in place.
Two, they can rule it is unconstitutional and law cannot stay in place.
Three, they can rule it is constitutional and the law stays in place. Coulson feels this is the lesser of the three choices that the Supreme Court could follow.
Beyond the process, he accurately raises the concern that moving future teachers from the defined benefit system to the hybrid system as detrimental to education.
“You are always responsible for what you do. So, over the last 17 years, there has been split legislature and a mix in the governor’s mansion. This is no longer a partisan issue. This is no longer throw mud in that guy’s eye cause he has that letter next to his name. What we saw here was a legislature that promised to fix this issue and who, in my opinion, made the situation worse,” says Coulson.
“I will always be in favor of a tax generation system that focuses on income and profit rather than consumption. First, we can generate revenue in a much more calculated and orderly fashion if we’re doing personal and corporate taxes based on income and profits,” he offers as his philosophy of ways for Kentucky to generate revenue.
He adds that you can incentivize actions of businesses by offering tax breaks on certain behaviors you want to encourage.
He challenges the consumption-based tax system by citing Kansas, which made the same jump with their tax system as Kentucky Republicans are enamored.
He offers an example: if a poor family and a wealthy family are buying the same pair of shoes for the new school year, the rate of consumption taxes would be an unfair portion of income on the poor family.
“Consumption taxes unfairly target the everyday folks, these bread and butter people that comprise the majority of our community while favoring the people in the 90th- and 95th-percentile income levels,” Coulson explains.
A local resident challenges this example because a lower income family would buy a $40 pair shoe while a wealthier family would buy a pair of Jordans that might be $200 pair or even multiple pairs of shoes.
“It’s a fair point,” Coulson answers, pointing out that the fixed necessity costs will stay the same amount between the two families. “Yes, a family that makes $100,000 is going to spend more, and they’re going to pay taxes on those things, but those things that are discretionary are going to stay the same between the two families.”
“We hope so,” he said in answering the question of whether food and medicine would be excluded from being taxed in a consumption-based system.
“When you do your taxes based on buying a pair of jeans or these other necessities through life, you are really focusing your revenue generation on the backs of poor working people,” he adds.
Sighing, he admits that he struggles with a progressive income tax rate compared to a flat tax rate. A flat tax does not give government a role in encouraging businesses that may not turn a profit that year.
“We need to be looking for a tax structure that allows us to ensure that either people earn a living wage or that when a taxpayer has to step in and subsidize that lack of a living wage, the taxpayer is being reimbursed for that lack of a living wage. It’s not right that a taxpayer who goes out and works hard has to pay a higher income tax to subsidize the living cost of another person who’s working full-time hours but cannot get by,” says Coulson.
He saw the $15 per hour minimum wage as hurting small business. “I cannot afford to hire someone now, let alone at $15 per hour, and the 7 1/2 percent that I’m going to have to pay toward their FICA/Social Security, plus Workman’s Comp and all of those other things adds more burden to me.”
He suggests a long-term approach that provides a tax environment that rewards work and rewards for businesses who provide a living wage.
“Maybe you craft a tax environment where larger businesses actually get to earn that reduction in the income tax by paying a living wage to their employees,” he says. He points out that providing that wage is taking a strain off the Kentucky budget, but he cautions that you have to be careful on how to craft that so that they do not hurt small businessses.
As the discussion was centered on farming in Kentucky, Coulson says, “For a long time, a college degree was viewed as the only way, and I think we’re seeing now that there are many paths to a better life. There are many paths to a sustainable life, support your family and live the American dream that don’t require a four-year degree.”
He cites a program at the Iron Workers Local 44 that is taking kids and putting them to work. It takes four years to be a journeyman, and by then they are making $20-$25 per hour . They are on their way.
But in the same tone, he understands that kids in Harrison, Scott and Pendleton County deserve the same quality of education as kids in other parts of the state.
“You’ve got to balance accountability with the fact we’re just forcing teachers to teach to testss. We’re setting evaluations for them, but we’re not offering any resources to make things better,” he says.
“The next few years in the legislature, we’re going to have to make some really difficult priority decisions. Are we going to double down and invest in education and training to get us ready for this next century of the workforce, or are we going to continue to try to cut our way to greatness,” he wonders.
“We are not doing enough in schools right now. We are not doing enough educating right now. And we have got kids running through the dependency, neglect and abuse courts,” Colson says, touching on what the state needs to be doing to address the drug problem in the state.
He feels the state needs to be increasing long term inpatient treatment while increaing job placement for those with convictions He also sees the need to address the drug issue as a public health crisis rather than just a criminal issue.
He offers the needle exchange program as an example of the latter. “As we have seen, not having a clean needle never stopped a user from using drugs. Having a clean needle, however, does stop an HIV and hepatitis outbreak.”
Another example is the 9,500 children living in foster families, many because of their parents’ drug issues. He put forth programs of harm reduction and medical assisted rehab programs as showing benefits in other areas.
The programs should focus on helping the users, but drug traffickers will still face the consequences of their actions.
Proposing Wait Period
“Day one, I am filing the rule change that requires all bills to be public for at least five days before we’ll vote on them,” he says. He adds that he has a couple of other candidates who have signed onto that pledge with him.
“It’s going to irritate some folks and, frankly, it might irritate some folks in my party, but I cannot, in good conscience, criticize government the way I have in the last year and then turn around and not hold myself to the same level of accountability that I have been demanding of people,” he adds.
He concedes that doing legislation is a rough-and-tumble business with 100 people who have to come to an constituency building. The time allows people to work behind the scenes to get everything out there that would be voted on without ramming it through at the last minute.
“We should be working every year towards setting a legislative agenda that meets the long-term goals of Kentuckians, and if we’re just passing laws at the last minute without notice, then we are either hiding something, or we are not being as deliberate as we should be,” he says.
One area that Coulson differs from his party is gun control. As a gun owner and Constitutional advocate, he supports gun ownership.
“I think our economic message is better. I think our tax message is better. I think we have much better policy in most regards which is why I am registered as I am, but you have to quit talking about guns because you are losing these people who can benefit so greatly from our policy because you are not respecting the second amendment appropriately,” he adds.
He points out that he is a fiercely independent human being. “The Bible says you cannot serve two masters, and I think in the legislature you cannot serve two masters. I don’t think you can serve the donors, special interests, your party and lobbyists and serve the people of your district. I think I do very well in that area to critically look at a policy and look at how it affects the people in my district,” he says about his driving force.
The full video, including material not covered in this article, can be viewed at www.falmouthoutlook.com. There are videos with candidates in other local races.