• John McGary, Woodford Sun Report

VP comes to Versailles

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE was introduced by Gov. Matt Bevin at a GOP rally Wednesday, March 7, at More Than A Bakery. The event was designed to promote tax cuts and other Trump Administration policies as well as the reelection campaign of U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, whose district includes Woodford County. (Photo by Isabel Brinegar)

Vice President Mike Pence was the headliner for a pro-tax cuts campaign rally on Wednesday, March 7 that attracted a crowd of about 700 to More Than A Bakery.

The visit was organized by America First Policies, an organization formed to support the policies of President Trump. The group also sponsored a Pence visit to a Lexington business last summer. Both trips were designed to promote the reelection of U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, whose congressional district includes Woodford and Fayette counties.

Hundreds of vehicles, many from outside Woodford County, slowly made their way into the Woodford Youth Soccer Association field, where shuttle buses took people to and from the event. While waiting in line for a bus, Thomas Barker of Shelby County said he was a Trump/Pence supporter who’d come to see what was going on and help make America great again.

“I just like the direction the country’s going now and I just want to see what else they’ve got to add,” Barker said.

Behind Barker on the brisk morning were Jason Welch of Lexington, who was wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and his mother, Denise, who was holding a coat he might choose to don later.

“You pick your battles,” Denise Welch said of her son’s attire.

“I just want to hear what he has to say,” Jason Welch said of Pence.

Michael Cummins, a Versailles resident and Illinois native, said he’d voted for the Trump-Pence ticket and came to support them both. He was less supportive of logistical problems that manifested themselves in crawling traffic on Big Sink Road and long waits for some at the soccer field.

Cummins said he and his girlfriend had just gotten to the front of one bus line when the bus left and another pulled up 50 or so yards behind them and put them at the end of the new line. He explained his situation to the second bus driver with great energy, and they were allowed to board.

On board that bus was Brian Furnish, an industrial hemp grower from Cynthiana who said he’d been invited by Barr’s office. Furnish said he is an eighth-generation tobacco farmer who helped pass pro-hemp legislation in 2014, after which he became the first U.S. licensed hemp grower since the crop was outlawed in 1937. Furnish said the Trump Administration was pro-hemp.

“They’re going to clarify the difference between marijuana and hemp, which is very beneficial to me as a hemp grower who’s trying to grow a commodity, just like I grow my other crops,” Furnish said. “Tobacco’s going down and hemp’s going up, and I think hemp could be the crop of the future in Kentucky because of our tobacco infrastructure.”

The event began with a round-table discussion that featured Barr, Bill Quigg, president of More Than A Bakery, and Daniel Harrison, a co-owner of Country Boy Brewing. The moderator was Ian Boccaccio of the America First Policies Group, a pro-Trump group that sponsored the event and put together the Barr event last year.

All spoke highly of the $1.5 trillion Tax Cuts and Jobs Act for businesses and individuals passed last December by the GOP-led Congress and signed by the president.

“When I think about the tax cuts … I think about how does it affect our family members (the bakery refers to employees as family members) and what’s important to me is that they’re able to go home with a bigger paycheck,” said Quigg.

Quigg said the business tax cuts could speed up his company’s plans to expand to two or even three lines. Barr said the average family of four in Kentucky would receive a $2,052 tax cut this year.

According to Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax cuts are projected to add $1 trillion to the national debt over the next decade, even after higher economic growth is factored in. Critics of the plan point out the tax cuts for individuals, unlike those for businesses, expire in 2025, and if Congress extends them as expected, their impact on the deficit also grows.

Neither the panel nor Pence discussed those issues, and the crowd, estimated at 700 by the Associated Press, cheered a video featuring President Trump and congressional leaders.

Gov. Matt Bevin introduced Pence, who was greeted with a standing ovation and loud cheers throughout his 32-minute speech.

“I bring greetings from a man who loves Kentucky and a leader you voted to make the 45th President of the United States,” Pence said.

“I’m here today on the president’s behalf, first and foremost, to say, ‘Thank you, Kentucky,’ for everything you’ve done, not only to see this president elected, but also to stand with our administration and those who supported us … every day since. Because of your support, the last year’s been a year of action, it’s been a year of results, it’s been a year of promises made, promises kept.” Pence employed campaign slogans frequently and drew loud cheers when he said, “Make no mistake about it – we’re going to build that wall,” a reference to a wall between America and Mexico that, during the campaign, Trump said would be paid for by Mexico.

Pence said the Trump Administration has taken decisive action to “uphold the rule of law and rev the engine of the American economy.”

He praised the president’s appointments of conservative judges, the foremost of whom he owes to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. After Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, McConnell did not allow a hearing or vote for President Obama’s nominee. The seat was vacant until Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by the Senate early last year.

Pence said under the president’s leadership, the U.S. was cracking down on unfair trade practices.

“The United States had been taken advantage of by too many countries for too long, and that’s not going to happen anymore. We’re going to renegotiate NAFTA (the North American Free Trade agreement with Mexico and Canada), protecting our steel and aluminum industries.

President Trump will always put American workers (first),” Pence said.

Pence did not mention threatened retaliatory tariffs against Kentucky’s vital bourbon industry thought to be aimed at McConnell, who’s expressed concern about a trade war.

Pence praised Kentucky’s Republican congressmen and senators for their support for the tax cuts and other legislation pushed by the Trump Administration.

“With your continued energetic and enthusiastic support and prayers … we will make America safe again. We will make America prosperous again. And to borrow a phrase,” Pence said, then paused as the audience chuckled, “We will make America great again.”

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