With no one running against him, J.T. Payne will be Henderson’s next state representative after current state Rep. Jonathan Dixon’s term ends at the end of the year.
Friday was the deadline to file candidacy papers for the position. A check on the Kentucky secretary of state’s website Saturday showed that no one had filed against Payne.
Payne, who filed on Dec. 21, laughed that this would probably be the easiest campaign he’ll ever have to run.
Before he steps into the new role, he said he’ll use the next 12 months to meet with local government, business and organization leaders—on both sides of the aisle—to determine top priorities for Henderson County.
“I think there are some bipartisan issues I can start to plan for,” Payne said.
He said he’s concerned about the highly divisive nature of current politics and said he’ll work for unity by advocating for legislation that may not get as many headlines as the fringe bills, but nonetheless is highly beneficial to people of any party.
As the General Assembly works through the budget process this year, one of the big points will be teacher pay. Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear has proposed an 11% pay increase for public school employees. Republicans want to allocate money to school districts and then allow them to award raises.
Payne, 25, said both parties agree that teachers are underpaid. The debate is about how teachers get that raise, he said. Because next year’s General Assembly session is not a budget year, Payne, an agriculture teacher at Henderson County High School, won’t deal with it then. But it’s an issue that probably won’t go away.
“I’m sure that’s a discussion that comes up in two years,” he said.
As a teacher, Payne would need to be away from school—for 30 days in odd-numbered years and 60 days in even-numbered years. Payne said he searched the financial disclosures of every member of the House and the Senate since he filed and found that 10% of current state legislators are employed by some educational institution.
He said he’ll look at those models and have talks with local school administrators to determine the best way to serve as a representative while still keeping his job at HCHS.
He said he would not be compensated as a teacher on those days he is in Frankfort, even if the law allows that.
“I would not accept pay on those days,” he said.