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Candidates Again Clash on Economy in Final Gubernatorial Debate

by Stu Johnson, Kentucky Public RadioThe economy dominated an often contentious gubernatorial debate hosted last night by Kentucky Educational Television.It was the second time all three candidates appeared together in a forum. Incumbent Democrat Steve Beshear has declined to attend several other debates. As he has previously, the governor repeated that, thanks to his work over the last three years, Kentucky's economy may pick up quicker than other states."Kentucky is starting to come out of this recession and I think because of what we've done, is gonna come out a lot faster and a lot better off than most other states," he said.The governor touted the economic incentives his administration has offered to businesses that are considering moving to Kentucky. But independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith hasn't been impressed."I do not believe the present governor has put forth a plan that will help to take the hard edges off this to slow Kentucky's fall," said the Lexington attorney.GOP challenger and Senate President David Williams spent much of the 90-minute debate criticizing the Beshear Administration for not acting on tax reform, which Williams has long championed in the campaign. Beshear has previously declined to take up the issue, saying the economy is too fragile for any experimentation.On the topic of healthcare, Beshear defended the state's new Medicaid managed care program which begins statewide today, saying it will save the state one-point-three billion dollars over three years.But Williams doesn't buy the savings projections."None of the commitments he's made in terms of savings have been lived up to at this juncture," said Williams. "He's already lost a month 25 percent of this year is already gone... and to meet his budget projections he would need to cut 500 million dollars in Medicaid services out and it's not gonna happen."Williams further criticized Beshear for claiming to have balanced the state budget in previous years. He said the governor only moved money around and did not truly bring expenses in line with revenue.Galbraith repeated previous statements that the lack of progress is largely due to partisan bickering.This was the last scheduled debate between the three gubernatorial candidates before voters cast their ballots one week from today.Beshear holds a commanding lead in the polls.