Kentucky is turning a corner to the better future it has been pursuing for years. A virtuous cycle built on the positive aspects of our quality of life lies before us—if state political leadership maintains its current collaborative approach to taking on our collective challenges.
Partisan warfare is exciting for the political class, but it does not serve constituents or benefit the public. Hats off to Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker David Osborne and Gov. Andy Beshear for keeping their inevitable disagreements on civil higher ground and away from the muck where progress bogs down.
Kentucky is coming off a record-shattering best year ever for economic development ($11.2 billion) and for public revenue. In an unprecedented achievement, January was the state’s fifth consecutive month in which General Fund revenue topped $1 billion: $1.21 billion in January 2022, $1.39 billion in December 2021, $1.17 billion in November 2021, $1.05 billion in October 2021, and $1.5 billion in September 2021, when a $225 legal settlement arrived.
The “rainy day” fund was a record $1.2 billion coming into fiscal 2022, with this year’s revenues on track to produce a further ample surplus. A key debate currently in Frankfort between the General Assembly and the governor’s office is how best to give money back to taxpayers.
Yes, times have changed!
Giving back funding taken from education since the 2008 financial crisis would be among the best investments Frankfort decision-makers could choose. The business community backs such a workforce-developing strategy.
Kentucky’s budget won’t be breaking through the roof forever, but revenues should continue to grow comfortably for several years as announced and anticipated development brings jobs, income, and property improvements to grow the tax base.
The state budget has benefited from federal pandemic stimulus funds, but credit should go to business-friendly tax reforms enacted in 2018 and 2019, and to economic development efforts by the Cabinet for Economic Development as well as local development agencies, county judge-executives and business owners.
Major utilities such as LG&E-KU, East Kentucky Power Cooperative, Kentucky Power, Duke Energy and others play roles, too, with personnel focused on development while funding in-state projects and out-of-state marketing. The Kentucky Association for Economic Development has significantly beefed up its support offerings.
Impressive projects with large private investments and jobs for Kentucky families have chosen the commonwealth for at least a decade. It’s brought recognition repeatedly from entities such as Site Selection magazine.
However, nothing approaches what happened last year when Ford Motor Co. and SK Industries of South Korea picked a Hardin County site along I-65 for a $5.8 billion vehicle battery plant. Construction is expected to soon begin on that project, which will open in 2025 with 5,000 jobs. It puts Kentucky at the leading edge of major economic, industrial and societal change, namely the shift to electric vehicles. More investment and jobs will follow BlueOvalSK Battery Park to Kentucky to supply its decades-long operation.
It’s a vote of confidence with global impact for Kentucky, its people, its politics and its business environment. It happened because we choose collaboration over conflict.