By Monica Spees
Source: The Daily News
The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has some ideas about how to make Kentucky better, and the chamber president said Bowling Green and Warren County are doing well compared to other parts of the state.
Dave Adkisson, Kentucky Chamber president and chief executive officer, said the chamber is emphasizing in its 2015 legislative agenda the need for public-private partnerships, or P3s, and financial transparency in the state’s pension systems. He said pensions will continue to be a major point of discussion during the 2015 legislative session.
“The state’s pension problems cast a shadow over everything the state government does,” Adkisson said. “The Kentucky retirement system and the Kentucky teacher retirement system are both underfunded, and we’re now forced to play catch-up … It keeps us from investing in our priorities, such as schools, colleges and universities. It’s siphoning off all of those new dollars. It’s been years in the making and it will be years in recovery.”
The chamber sees the need to build a stronger workforce by providing quality education, creating a comprehensive business climate, improving the health and wellness of Kentuckians and expanding Kentucky’s role as an energy leader.
To achieve a competitive business climate, the chamber supports pro-growth comprehensive tax reform, including a simplified tax code, a focus on prioritized government spending and support of other growth-oriented policies; right-to-work legislation; reforming telecommunications laws to spur investment in high-speed telecommunications infrastructure: and an amendment to the Kentucky Constitution that would allow cities and counties the choice, with voter approval, to enact a local sales tax with a sunset provision for funding of local projects.
The local-option sales tax would allow counties considering community or infrastructure projects to put the vote to the people. If county residents vote in favor of the project, the county will have a temporary sales tax of up to 1 percent – the amount is also the people’s decision, depending on how quickly they want the project completed. After the project is paid for, the sales tax goes away. Local Investments for Transformation Kentucky has been advocating for the local-option sales tax since 2013.
Kentucky’s adoption of tougher academic standards was an important step toward preparing students for success in college and careers. The state chamber supports the enactment of a charter school law to give all children access to the highest-quality education possible.
“(Education is) ultimately where we’re going to get the competitive edge,” Adkisson said.
Adkisson said public-private partnerships, which Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed at the end of the 2014 legislative session, are crucial to improving Kentucky’s competitive business climate. He added that Beshear will support P3 legislation in the coming session.
The good news for Bowling Green and Warren County, Adkisson said, is the area is doing well and is among areas promoting a stronger business climate.
“A lot of other regions in the state are very envious of the success Bowling Green is having,” Adkisson said.
Adkisson said he believes the Kentucky Chamber and the Bowling Green chamber’s agendas “are in harmony.” Warren County has “gotten the state’s attention” in right-to-work matters, for example, Adkisson said.
“In (right-to-work), Bowling Green and Warren County are ahead of the state,” Adkisson said. “You can just feel the energy and can-do attitude of Bowling Green.”
Craig Browning, a member of the Kentucky Chamber board of directors and U.S. Bank regional president for southcentral Kentucky, said the region benefits from the work the Kentucky chamber does. The chamber puts a lot of thought into its legislative agendas, he said.
“The Kentucky chamber does a lot of good work that people don’t know about,” Browning said. “One of the best kept lobbying secrets in Frankfort, in fact.”
“We’ve got to constantly look for ways to be more competitive, not just with other states, but with other countries,” Adkisson said.
Adkisson and other chamber leaders will tour the state through Jan. 22 to drum up support for the agenda. For more information, visit kychamber.com/2015agenda.