The two candidates for Kentucky's 3rd District House seat met this morning in a debate hosted by the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce.
State Representative Gerald Watkins and his Republican Challenger Randy Bridges differ on whether a minimum wage increase is necessary.
Bridges, a real estate broker, doesn't think a minimum wage increase will help reduce poverty rates in the region.
"It's like raising a ladder if you take a box and raise it a foot you put that ladder on it, it raise every other rung too," said Bridges. "So, it is going to force business small and large to have to raise their whole pay scale. It is going to add to inflation. It is not the feasible thing to do."
Watkins, a democrat, voted for an incremental minimum wage increase from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 in the 2014 legislative session.
"22 states have a higher minimum wage than the minimum wage than the minimum wage Kentucky still has on study shows 13 states that increased the minimum wage grew faster than the state that did not," said Watkins. "University of California study shows no negative impact on unemployment by an increase in the minimum wage."
The candidates were asked whether the city of Paducah and the state should have more involvement in the operations of the Paducah Power Board after several leading executives stepped down last month.
Watkins says government should be more involved to assure that such problems are avoided in the future.
"I think at this point something needs to be done," said Watkins. "It's a crying shame that we're trying to compete and our power rates are going sky-high. It was a terrible decision to leave TVA and take part with Prairie State. I think the mayor and the city commission are taking positive steps trying to clean that up and get out of that contract."
Bridges says the state should be more involved with energy industry operations as a whole.
"I'm sure they [Paducah Power] were certain they were making the decisions they thought were in the best interests but on the state levels there are certain things that need to be done," said Bridges. "We've got a nuclear plant out here and there's a nuclear moratorium and two years ago there was a commitment on this stage to lift that and that's a failure. And not only in Paducah and McCracken County but Kentucky as a whole is under an energy crisis and it's been brought on by our president and our current leadership and I think we need to step in and address some of these issues."
Watkins and Bridges would not support abolishing Kentucky's death penalty, however Watkins proposes reforming punishments for some minor drug crimes to reduce the prison population. Bridges disagreed and said despite the costs of the prison system, the sentences provide a level of public safety for citizens.