Grayson: 8 reforms to make Kentucky better – Cincinnati Enquirer

By Trey Grayson
Source: Cincinnati Enquirer

Trey Grayson is president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

During 2015, Kentucky will experience an open-seat gubernatorial election for only the second time in 20 years. Given our state’s financial situation, this election is the most critical one in several decades, and we should pay close to attention to the records and platforms of the candidates.

In December, the Chamber unveiled Where We Stand, our 2015 legislative priority agenda. These eight priorities, combined with other Chamber priorities, would make a pretty good gubernatorial policy address. With that in mind, think of the rest of this column as “The Gubernatorial Speech You’d Like to Hear in the Upcoming Year.”

For too many years, Kentucky’s budget has been balanced with smoke and mirrors such as not funding pensions for teachers and state employees at an appropriate level. Fortunately, several tools can be adopted which will unleash the power of the private sector to help address our needs.

Public Private Partnerships, or P3, uses the expertise and efficiencies of the private sector in public infrastructure projects to allow each tax dollar can go farther. A P3 – a tool used by 34 other states – can help stretch our nearly $1.6 billion public construction investment so that we can better meet our infrastructure needs in transportation (such as the Brent Spence Bridge corridor), water, sewers and economic development.

The other tools we need to fill out our economic development toolbox:

 A local option sales tax, which gives cities and counties the option to ask their voters for a temporary 1 percent sales tax increase for a specific, important economic development projects. The tax would expire upon the competition of the project. This tool offers a useful form of self-help for our taxpayers, as all of the tax revenue generated stays in the region to pay for the project and goes away after development is complete.

 An improved historic tax credit and new incentives for communities to establish or expand local innovation districts, such as our UpTech. Both proposals will help spur economic development in urban areas.

 High-speed broadband. We need to modernize our antiquated telecommunications laws to allow the private sector the flexibility to invest in the broadband and wireless infrastructure that we need.

 A rational way of funding post-secondary education. Currently, we give universities a flat amount, regardless of how they perform. Instead, Kentucky should join six of our neighboring states in adopting an outcomes-based funding model. We can set the outcomes we want (more degrees of a certain type, higher retention rate, increased affordability, more participation from under-served populations, etc.), and our post-secondary institutions will better focus their efforts on these outcomes. That’s just common sense.

 A comprehensive bill to combat the heroin epidemic. Addiction is reducing the supply of available workers and causing many workers to be less productive as they have to miss work to care for loved ones. Addicts also pose a danger on job sites and often steal from their employers to feed their habits. To solve this crisis, we need to address both supply and demand using four general strategies: treatment, prevention, support and protection.

 An independent panel of medical experts to review claims against health care providers. Rising health care costs makes affording all of the above difficult, and a panel is one way to rein in costs by reducing abusive health care litigation. Such a review would expedite the process and provide a layer of accountability that is currently missing in Kentucky.

OK, I admit that this speech doesn’t contain enough applause lines or red meat for the partisans. But it does identify eight reforms that would make Kentucky a better place to live, work and play. That’s something that we can and should rally behind during the legislative session and governor’s race.

What People Are Saying

  • “Putting the local-tax amendment on the November 2014 statewide ballot is a no-brainer. If local people want to levy local taxes on themselves, they should be able to.”

    Al Cross, Courier-Journal columnist
  • Jeff-Bringardner-headshot-only“This is a way to keep dollars in the area, to come up with a diverse slate of projects that sync up with the long-term plans of the community and get voted on by the people”

    Jeff Bringardner, President, Humana Kentucky
  • BillLamb“If Louisville could adopt a 1% Local Option Tax, it would impose a minimal burden, but would raise over 90 million dollars a year.”

    Bill Lamb, President and General Manager for WDRB and WNYO
  • Bill Samuels Bellarmine Portrait“Local option makes all the sense in the world. Offering citizens the opportunity to vote on investing in their community is how our country ought to operate.”

    Bill Samuels, Chairman, Emeritus Makers Mark
  • …a new way for communities to see the projects they want and need go from the drawing board to reality — and to do it for themselves.

    Jim Host, founder of Host Communications and former State Commerce Secretary
  • LIFT is a tried-and-true tool that allows for more voter involvement in the process.  Voters, not politicians, would help determine big picture, visionary projects that could improve quality of life.

    Dave Adkisson, President and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce
  • …an idea whose time has come, and could be a crucial economic development tool which will help our local communities build a better future, and the new jobs and businesses we need.

    Hal Goode, President and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Economic Development
  • In our opinion, Kentucky voters should be allowed to vote on the local option sales tax because it could fund public facilities without increasing property taxes.

    Morehead News
  • It will allow communities to plan and pay for improvements to enhance civic and economic life without going hat in hand each budget session to Frankfort.

    Lexington Herald-Leader
  • The beauty of it is that local voters have the say-so as to its enactment, and they have a sense that they are getting what they pay for.

    Princeton Times-Leader