Equalizing Economic Opportunity
The government shouldn’t use our tax dollars to benefit corporations — our tax dollars should be used to benefit people. The way we do that is through building the infrastructure that we all use — not giving tax subsidies or breaks to companies that line the pockets of shareholders but do little to increase jobs in our communities.
Jobs Through Public Infrastructure Investments
Public infrastructure is a term that gets thrown around a lot. It refers to our roads and bridges, our public transit, our electrical grid, our water and sewer systems, our broadband infrastructure, and our parks and greenspaces. It’s all the things that make more sense to build together and allow access to all, rather than to build as individuals.
But infrastructure doesn’t last forever. The nation has had moments of big infrastructure growth, which are opportunities to inject short and long-term economic growth into our national economy while we increase everyone’s quality of life.
With climate change’s effects bearing down on our way of life, now is one of those moments that we have the opportunity to invest in a large scale public infrastructure program that puts people to work, fixes and improves crumbling infrastructure and fixes inefficient and unaffordable utilities with innovative and sustainable methods. We also have the opportunity to use this massive injection of infrastructure dollars to right the wrongs of past inequalities that left many workers and communities behind as the country grew.
This includes folks in the coalfields of Appalachia and west Kentucky who have fueled America’s growth but who have been left behind as the nation transitions away from coal. It includes communities of color who have faced systemic discrimination for generations. And it includes our farmers that face uncertainty in weather and trade as politicians refuse to acknowledge the truth of climate change and the importance of a global market.
We can put people to work in good jobs that enrich and move our people and communities forward by investing in frontline communities that have borne the environmental burden of America’s progress as profits were realized by others. We can make our homes healthier and more energy efficient to stop the astronomical bills and lead to healthier children and Kentuckians. We can lead on innovations to our electrical grid and renewable energy sources by building upon our manufacturing and research capabilities. We can clean up forgotten industrial and mining sites to improve water, soil and air quality for healthier communities.
All of this building and innovating not only improves the quality of life for all Kentuckians, it puts money into the pockets of Kentucky families that gets spent in our communities — a true economic stimulus that puts more people to work than just those who directly work on these public infrastructure projects.
While a public infrastructure program of the magnitude that is needed gears up, there is a program that could begin today with projects ready to help our coal communities. The federal Abandoned Mine Lands fund was created to restore land and waterways damaged by old mining operations and currently contains a total of $2.5 billion. The RECLAIM Act would allocate $1 billion over what is currently spent over the next five years.
Making Post-Secondary Education Affordable and Encouraging Public Service
Debilitating student loans are changing the way Americans make important life decisions. The only cost rising faster than the cost of a post-secondary education is the cost of insulin. The soaring cost of a college education, combined with rising interest rates, means college graduates and attendees are unable to own homes or start families, save for a rainy day or retirement. Privately-managed student loans only compound the problem and are another reason why so many in our society find it so difficult to get ahead and why non-wealthy students may decide not to attend higher education to begin with.
The first two-years of post-secondary education – a certificate, skilled-trade, community college or university – for young people whose parents’ annual income is less than $200,000, should be tuition free. All students, regardless of parents’ income, pursuing a four-year or post-graduate degree should receive zero percent interest loans to help them complete their studies. For individuals with outstanding student loans who go into public service jobs like teaching, first responders and the military, $10,000 of their post-secondary education loans should be forgiven for each year of service. After five years of service, the remainder of their loans would be forgiven. Finally, we should extend 0% refinancing to all current loans.
Any parent knows how expensive quality and reliable child care is. And in many rural areas of our commonwealth, child care is not even available. It is a problem that is keeping many from going to work or pursuing educational opportunities. We must find ways to keep child care safe, make it accessible and affordable in more places and pay child care workers more. This is a problem that will not be fixed by a single policy. But we can help families now by increasing the tax deduction parents are able to take for work or education-related child care needs.
Address the Racial Wealth Gap
I support a commission to address the economic disparity that exists between white Americans and Americans who are descendants from trafficked and enslaved persons.
I support extending the full protection of our nation’s federal anti-discrimination laws to LGBTQ individuals.