A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Amy McGrath: Kentucky needs new generation leaders who will fight for every Kentuckian

We are truly at a turning point in our nation’s history. Peaceful protesters in every state and across the world are standing together to fight against the systemic racism and unequal treatment in the criminal justice system that has plagued our country for its entire history. Further, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored inequities in our economic, health care and education systems that underlie the racial injustice in America.

I believe that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect, and I will not let this moment pass without working on the structural inequities that are pervasive in this country. I’ve spent the last year traveling the state talking to Kentuckians (recently those talks have been virtual) about their priorities, their frustrations, their ideals. I am running for Senate so I can be the voice of all Kentuckians in Washington.

Amy McGrath

During a recent tele-town hall I held for Northern Kentuckians, I asked listeners what issues they are concerned about right now. In other words, what is keeping them up at night? One of the most common responses was access to quality, affordable health care.

I wasn’t surprised to hear this, because it was a major issue I heard about from Kentuckians as I traveled the state before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. And the pandemic has only exacerbated those concerns and made the shortcomings of our health care system even more clear.

That’s why common-sense, achievable fixes to our health care system that will bring down costs and expand access will be one of my first priorities in the Senate. The Affordable Care Act is far from perfect, but through Kynect and expanded Medicaid, it enabled more than 400,000 Kentuckians to get affordable health insurance for the first time. I am committed to working for a bipartisan plan to fix the ACA’s problems, while maintaining current essential health benefits, preventing insurers from charging higher premiums based on factors such as health status or pre-existing conditions, and without imposing annual or lifetime coverage caps.

We can bring down prices on premiums further by providing access to a public option, giving everyone the choice to buy a government insurance plan, much like I buy for my family as a military retiree. Premiums would be lower because the goal would not be to make a profit. It would also drive down costs of private insurance plans by forcing them to compete with Uncle Sam.

We can’t fix our health care system without addressing prescription drug prices. There are six bipartisan bills on Mitch McConnell’s desk to reduce prescription prices, including legislation to allow Medicare to negotiate lower costs, and he won’t even let them be considered on the Senate floor. Meanwhile, the average Kentuckian spends over $2,000 annually on prescription medications — the second-highest in the nation. One of the first things I will do when I get into office is fight for legislation to lower prescription drug costs.

The health of Kentuckians goes hand-in-hand with our economic security. That’s why I am committed to bringing good-paying jobs to the state and making sure our small businesses have what they need to thrive. No one should have to work multiple jobs to support a family, and no one should have to leave the state to meet their career goals.

The first step is to prioritize federal investments in repairing our infrastructure—roads, bridges, and water systems—much of which is in disrepair or in serious need of updates. The Brent Spence Bridge, America’s “#1 infrastructure emergency,” was a problem when I was a kid! It is a major thoroughfare for our national economy, and it deserves federal funding.

Besides the need for investments into Kentucky’s 20th-century infrastructure, we also need to invest in 21st-century infrastructure such as broadband and cell phone coverage. The COVID-19 pandemic has put more pressure on our meager broadband infrastructure and further exposed its weak points in our state. Modern communications infrastructure is the roads, bridges and dams of this century. It is central to the way we educate our children and do business. If we don’t have it, we will fall further behind, and we will not attract the quality jobs of the future.

But growing our economy doesn’t just mean attracting business from out of state. It also means supporting our local businesses with concrete policy that allows them to compete and thrive. We need new federal grants for small business development in our communities, and we need to reward entrepreneurs by making our tax system fairer to our small businesses.

Our small farmers and ranchers in particular are struggling as fewer — yet much larger — commercial farms eat up their business. Federal policy tends to write off small-scale farms as unproductive. But in the long-term, this devastates rural communities and the Kentuckians who live there.

In the most recent Farm Bill, the top 10% of farmers got 70% of the subsidies. It was so bad that Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, who is a farmer himself, was against it. If you’re wondering why the bill prioritized the interests of corporate agriculture over Kentucky’s farmers, all you need to know is that McConnell is the top recipient of campaign cash from big farm lobbyists and agribusiness—to the tune of $3.8 million. We need to re-examine Farm Bill programs designed to form a “safety net” for farmers, like subsidies, credit programs and crop insurance policies, and make sure they are working for small, family farms, not just the largest operations.

We also must ensure our workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future by investing in the basics again—education and training—so that financial stability is back within the grasp of all Kentuckians.

In 2019, Forbes ranked Kentucky 47th for its labor supply. Kentucky’s labor problem starts early: only 50% of Kentucky kids arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed in school. This has far-reaching effects, well into high school, college and career. Mending the education-to-workforce pipeline starts with high-quality early education programs and a well-funded public education system. We need to coordinate education and training with the business community and other organizations that know what the job market requires so we can ensure we are giving students the tools they need to succeed.

In order to thrive, we must make sure our workforce is not only well-trained, but also healthy, which is why we need to be honest about what it will take to tackle the opioid epidemic. That includes investment in research, prevention, treatment and recovery. This is an issue that affects every aspect of our communities—our economy, our health care systems, our public safety and especially our families.

When I visited the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky, they told me they are helping children as young 5 years old who want to commit suicide because they don’t know how to manage their parents on drugs. That is unacceptable.

Look, I’ve spent my whole career serving my country as a Marine, and now I’m ready to serve my state in the Senate. I believe Kentucky needs a new generation of leaders, specifically those who understand and will fight for the needs of every Kentuckian, regardless of background. I grew up in Northern Kentucky, and now I live in Georgetown with my husband and three kids—and I want to make sure the voices in these communities, and communities across the commonwealth, are heard in the Senate. 

Amy McGrath is a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who is running for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky. Amy grew up in Northern Kentucky and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy. She became the first woman in the Marine Corps to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18 fighter jet. During her 20 years as a Marine, she served three combat tours overseas and as a Congressional Fellow advising a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee on defense and foreign policy. She went on to serve in the Pentagon as Marine Corps’ liaison to the State Department. Amy lives in Georgetown, Kentucky, with her husband Erik, a retired Navy pilot, and her three children, Teddy, George, and Ellie.

Candidates in contested races in the June 23 primary are welcome to submit an essay on why voters should choose them. Essays should be about the candidate and not about the candidate’s opponents. They should be 1000 words or less and be submitted by June 18.

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One Comment

  1. Richard says:

    Ms. McGrath, what about unborn Kentuckians? Don’t they deserve dignity, respect and have a right to life?

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