Coal once fueled the economy of Kentucky as it fueled the homes and businesses of America.

Today, it’s a different story:

  • Kentucky has lost thousands of jobs in the coal industry.
  • Coal jobs in Kentucky have fallen to the lowest level in 118 years.

Kentucky deserves a senator that’s going to fight for what’s right for Kentucky and tell the truth. The combination of competition, a changing energy market and the power plan has hurt Kentucky families. That’s the truth.

The economic rug has been pulled out from under many Kentucky families regardless if they worked directly in the mines. Mining jobs provide an enormous economic benefit to the entire state’s economy. And after more than 200 years, it’s part of our heritage and history. So it’s not part of my DNA to say ‘let’s stop mining’. That’s not the solution and it’s just not feasible.

Coal is important to affordable and reliable power and it’s important to Kentucky families. As energy markets shift we must fight to be sure coal is a bridge to the future.

Our state is struggling because the coal industry is struggling — and it has been for a long time. Good people are out of work, communities are suffering, and our job is to find solutions for a stronger future.

We don’t need any more finger pointing or partisan bickering. We’ve seen enough of that and it hasn’t put a single Kentuckian back to work. Our economy and environment depend on revitalizing regions where coal mining drove the local economy and doing what we can to invigorate the coal industry.

Kentucky coal has provided good jobs, reliable and affordable energy, and is a part of America’s energy future. We CAN make a difference and invest in coal’s future.

I have a plan to address the economic challenges in coal country and across the commonwealth. And I’ll work with anyone – regardless of party – who’s willing to work to get it done.

  1. Grow Existing Businesses and Bring More Industries and Companies to Kentucky

We’ve seen what can happen when a community becomes too dependent on any one industry. We need to help coal regions diversify their economies by attracting new businesses and industries to Kentucky and our communities that need it the most.

As a businessman for more than 40 years, I understand what it takes to grow and attract new industry — I’ve done it. In Lexington, we were able to attract new businesses to the city to create thousands of jobs. I will do that again for Kentucky’s coal regions.

Building our rural infrastructure is critical to bringing new businesses to Kentucky. Kentucky’s roads received a D grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers. We must prioritize fixing our outdated roads and bridges because poor roads make it harder for businesses to move their products and employees around our state.

As your Senator I will fight to make the Hal Rogers parkway a true interstate highway, widening the current path to four uninterrupted lanes from Hazard to Somerset. And I’ll support the completion of the Mountain Parkway expansion as well as the Interstate 75 southern corridor improvements. Each of these projects have gotten a kick start through bipartisan efforts of state and federal leaders. They need a champion in the US Senate.

Likewise, slow internet speeds get in the way of attracting jobs. Through the good work of Congressman Rogers, Governor Beshear, and the Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) initiative team, we know high speed internet is the highway system of tomorrow. Economic development in rural Kentucky will suffer until we open up high speed access to business and residents.

Rebuilding our roads and increasing internet speeds – by supporting the KentuckyWired program – in rural regions will make them more attractive to industry.

Incentivizing business growth and attracting new industry through targeted tax incentives is a proven method to growing the jobs Kentucky needs. Toyota in Georgetown is a perfect example of the state working with private business to change the economics of a region. More than 100,000 people work in manufacturing within the Lexington-Louisville corridor and Toyota is a driver for many of those jobs. My goal is to build the infrastructure, attract employers and connect them with some of America’s most productive workers who call eastern Kentucky home.

I literally have concrete experience in helping to bring new jobs to Kentucky. My business helped build Kentucky’s Toyota plant along with hundreds of other manufacturing plants all across Kentucky. I’m proud to have helped bring those jobs to Kentucky and I pledge to bring more to the areas that need them the most.

  1. Make innovation and Technology Work for Kentucky

The U.S. needs to continue to build its energy security and end reliance on foreign sources. Coal is an abundant domestic resource and is a vital part of our country’s energy mix.

Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology has the potential to make the use of coal cleaner and compliant with environmental protection regulations.

Unfortunately, CCS technology has been neglected by policymakers in Washington. In this year’s budget request, President Obama only asked for $600 million for the Fossil Energy program, a 5.1 percent decrease since last year.

We need a bold national plan to renew our efforts to develop CCS technology. When we make coal clean, we can increase demand and revitalize the coal industry and the regions where it’s based while also taking steps to protect our outdoors.

Here are a few important steps we need to take to start making coal work for the environment and avoid needless job loss.

Increase research and development funding for CCS. The federal Office of Fossil Energy should be leading the charge with cutting edge technology that will pave the way for the future of clean coal. Continuing to underfund this program is simply shortsighted. As your Senator, I will make sure this program gets the funding it needs for breakthrough technology.

Support private sector pilot projects. The private sector needs to know that government wants to give the fossil fuel industry a future. Private sector demonstration projects that put CCS technology into use need the backing of the federal government to thrive. These public-private partnerships are the next step in making clean coal a reality. Together, we can fight climate change and create more jobs.

Give tax incentives for CCS. Last year, the US Congress passed an extension for renewable energy tax incentives, but once again neglected CCS. I strongly support a bipartisan bill to expand tax incentives for CCS technology. This bill could be a positive for Kentucky’s coal industry, and Kentucky deserves two Senators who support it.

Make the best use of existing programs. Until we can secure better funding for CCS, we need to need to turn over every stone to find the resources we need to make things happen. Currently, there are $8 billion in unclaimed loan guarantees for advanced fossil fuel projects from President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. That is money Kentucky should be pursuing. As your Senator, I will do everything in my power to secure this funding for CCS projects in Kentucky.

Support Sen. Heidi Heitkamp’s bill to support CCS. This bipartisan legislation would extend and expand tax credits to encourage investment and innovation in carbon capture utilization and storage; thereby reducing carbon emission. Senator McConnell signed on as a co-sponsor. My opponent has not.

  1. Worker Training

Giving Kentuckians the opportunity to find work here at home means we have to attract new industries and companies is to provide them with a well-trained and hardworking local workforce.

Coal workers are hard-working people who would are ready to help new industries and companies. But jobs of the future will require new skills. That’s why we need to provide skills training for workers in coal regions.

Worker training is vital to Kentucky’s ability to attract new businesses. We must take this need seriously and act upon it immediately.

That’s why I will support Senator McConnell’s efforts to bring federal funding to help retrain coal workers. I’ll join him in the fight to make it priority. And I applaud the General Assembly and Gov. Bevin – both Republicans and Democrats – for budgeting much needed training dollars.

We have already seen private sector innovation to retrain and repurpose our workforce, such as Bit Source in Pikeville, which is being led by our own coal operators, Lynn Parrish and Rusty Justice, and retrains coal workers in computer coding. We should encourage more new economy initiatives like this in rural Kentucky.

This is a challenging time for our commonwealth. But it’s also one that is full of opportunity. It’s a chance to prepare Kentucky families for all sorts of possibilities for new jobs and new careers.

  1. Protect Pensions

Kentuckians who helped build our state deserve a secure retirement.

Private pension plans for miners, including the UMWA pension plan, are in crisis from shortfalls. That means miners who rely on their pensions just to get by may end up losing them in a matter of months.

As your Senator one of my first orders of business will be to advocate for the Miners Protection Act, a bipartisan bill that would ensure that miners’ pensions are honored. Coal miners in Kentucky are some of the hardest working people I have ever met, and we need to make sure that we keep our promises to them.

I know something about making retirements secure. Lexington police and fire pensions were in desperate need of change to survive. Our reform preserved more than 1,000 retirees’ pensions and saved taxpayers $45 million. Our plan was called the “most effective pension reform in the country” by a national actuarial firm.

No one should threaten the retirements that Kentucky miners – or any workers – have earned after decades of hard work – especially not your U.S. Senator. 

Conclusion

Kentucky’s coal industry has been through hard times. And Kentuckians who depended on it have suffered. America has made significant investments in the nation’s economy and it is time we take a hard look at the federal budget, eliminate waste, explore public-private partnerships and prioritize public investments. Investments that rebuild our infrastructure, creates jobs and improves the lives of those who have been the backbone of American energy for generations.

Instead of trying to score political points and pointing fingers, it’s time to bring leaders together to help Kentuckians who are facing hard times.

My plan will do that. And I’ll work with Democrats, Republicans and Independents who want to bring prosperous times back to Kentucky’s coal regions.

That’s how we got things done in the past. It’s how we need to get things done in the future.