“I believe the 2023 Kentucky economy will be at a 10. In job growth, expansions, new private-sector investments and overall opportunity here, we’re headed the right way. Gas is now cheaper than a year ago, but inflation challenges still remain, many of which are caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. economy has more uncertainty compared to ours. It remains to be seen what actions the Fed takes and whether or not they will be effective. A hot economy brings its own set of challenges, such as growing the workforce, but those are challenges we happily embrace because it means more vibrancy for the commonwealth.
Moving into 2023 you see projects already underway. Steel is coming out of the ground in Glendale (at BlueOvalSK) for the largest electric-vehicle battery plant in the world, and another one is coming next to it. We’ve announced 43,000 new jobs since I became governor. This past year we led the country in new job growth in August and September, something Kentucky has never done before. Just the Ford plant has or will have 5,000-6,000 construction jobs on-site at once. We will have more jobs than ever before in the commonwealth, which will require more people, which means we will be seeing folks move to Kentucky. We’ll be retaining more of our people and getting more people back to work.
“My hope is the number of state employees will increase with the help of the General Assembly. We provided the largest raise to state employees in 20-plus years, which was desperately needed. Without pensions for new and existing workers, we have to be more competitive on salaries and benefits. Another round of potential raises that will come in front of the legislature this year can help us restore so much of our workforce that has been lost over the last two decades. We still have many areas at critical levels in staffing where we desperately need people to provide important services. We need social workers to ensure our kids—especially the most vulnerable—are safe. We need more workers in the Department of Juvenile Justice. We’re seeing more applications for state troopers, which is wonderful for public safety. We will be growing, but we’re making up for a pretty big loss from the last decade.
“State revenue has never been better. We’ve seen the largest growth in revenue in the last 30-plus years with the two largest budget surpluses in our history, and we’re about to beat that this year with $1.3 billion. There are areas where we have to deliver more. We have 11,000 teacher vacancies in our public schools, one of the most important jobs in government; that’s the future of our workforce. Education quality is threatened when you don’t have teachers to cover every subject in every classroom. That’s why we have to raise teacher pay and institute universal pre-K. Other services seeing extensive demand are exciting: More people are applying for licenses as electricians, HVAC-repair workers, skilled trades you can make a good living in are in huge demand. They’re going to be needed over not just the next 20 but 50 years for all of these projects we’re seeing. We are investing about $200 million in career and technical programs in our high schools because we’re seeing more demand for students who might want to go into a program that can lead to gainful employment.
“We are seeing more demand in higher ed. The Everybody Counts program we piloted in Jefferson County last year led to more people enrolling in higher education than ever before and getting assistance. More infrastructure dollars are flowing for roads and bridges; we hope to hear about the Brent Spence Bridge soon. Grants are helping to build the Ascent Elements plant, the largest investment in the history of Western Kentucky. Government investment, especially in infrastructure, is going to be significantly up next year.”