NKY Chamber expects little from Frankfort – Cincinnati.com

By: James Pilcher
Source: Cincinnati.com

Given that Kentucky just went through a contentious election cycle that included a fight for control of the state legislature, has a lame-duck governor and another contentious gubernatorial campaign coming next year, local business leaders aren’t too confident the General Assembly is going to get much done in its 30-day session set to begin in January.

That won’t stop them from trying. To that end, the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is planning to release next week its list of eight priorities for the upcoming session. Those include more work on the regional and statewide heroin epidemic, allowing public-private partnerships on major infrastructure projects such as the Brent Spence Bridge and even updating the state’s telecommunications laws and regulations. The chamber will present this list to the area’s legislative caucus at an event Wednesday night.

“Overall, nobody is anticipating an extraordinarily productive session this time around,” said Trey Grayson, the chamber’s president and chief operating officer. “So that is why we’ve scaled back and are just highlighting a few positions that we think are the most important.”

The full list includes:

  • Allowing public-private partnerships on infrastructue, which are also allowed in Ohio and Indiana.
  • Allowing cities, towns and even counties a local option sales tax up to 1 percent that would be voted on by the general public for specific projects. One estimate shows that could create an additional $25 million annually in revenue for Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties combined.
  • Creating a historic tax credit for redevelopment projects. Grayson said this is a pressing issue in areas such as Newport and Covington, which are desperate for redevelopment dollars.
  • Creating medical review panels that would “provide expert review” of lawsuits against health care providers and perhaps even cap such lawsuits as is done in all other surrounding states.
  • Building the framework to allow “innovation districts” and create business accelerators and tax credits to allow small startups to “cluster” in areas to build synergies.
  • Reforming the state’s telecommunications policies, especially since fiber-optic technology has been slower to spread in Northern Kentucky than in Southwest Ohio.
  • Adopting an outcomes-based funding system for post-secondary education providers such as Northern Kentucky University and Gateway Community and Technical College. This is becoming an urgent issue locally as area manufacturers seek trained employees, but Gateway in particular has missed targets for advanced manufacturing graduates.
  • Implementing a comprehensive plan to tackle the region’s and state’s heroin epidemic.

Grayson, who served as Kentucky’s secretary of state between 2004 and 2011, said he knows the Legislature won’t get to most of the items on the chamber’s list, but he is confident that at least heroin and the public-private partnership proposals will be addressed. In fact, several area legislators, including state Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, state Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, and state Reps. Addia Wuchner, R-Burlington, and Joe Fischer, R-Fort Thomas, have already prefiled heroin bills for next year’s session. A previous bill that would have increased treatment options and toughened penalties against heroin traffickers stalled last year, with both parties blaming the other.

“We’ve already endorsed Sen. McDaniel’s bill, and I’m sure this will all get compiled in Frankfort,” he said. “We have it listed last in our presentation, but it is important for everyone. I have no doubt at all that we will come up with a solution this time.”

As for the so-called P3 initiative that would allow private entities to help construct, finance or operate public works projects such as bridges and roads, water works and sewer systems, Grayson said there is a large coalition in favor of it. Such a proposal reached the desk of Gov. Steve Beshear last year, but it also included an amendment that would have banned the use of tolls on the Brent Spence Bridge. Beshear vetoed the bill because of that.

Other opponents of the measure said it could allow financially strapped entities to enter into deals that perhaps they shouldn’t, allow private entities to profit unfairly from what has traditionally been a governmental function, create financial complications for governmental entities, and cloud public transparency into both the construction and operation of such projects.

“We understand that the Brent Spence discussion hijacked the process last year, and we’re hoping to avoid that,” Grayson said. “But we feel strongly that this should be a tool in the toolbox of governments … and it could allow private developers to come up with ideas for developments as well instead of just sitting around waiting for a (government bid).”

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