LEXINGTON, Ky. — At the 2023 Kentucky Chamber Day Dinner on Thursday night, Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts began by stating Kentucky businesses have a shared vision: making the state the best place to live, work, and do business.
“The Chamber has never been more laser-focused on the needs of our businesses, and a competitive tax code and a skilled and healthy workforce is what will move the Commonwealth forward,” Watts said while discussing the Chamber’s top priorities of the 2023 General Assembly.
Governor Andy Beshear kicked off the evening’s remarks by noting Kentucky has been through a lot in recent years. “But today, we stand strong because we lead with our values and have lifted each other,” Beshear said.
He noted the Commonwealth has just logged the best two years of economic development in the state’s history and said announcements are still rolling in as we start 2023. During his address, Beshear named numerous companies in attendance that have announced major investments and expansions across the Commonwealth, including SK Battery Plant, Ford, CVG Airport, and more. He also highlighted the success of the bourbon industry, which had a record-breaking year in 2022.
Speaking to 1,900 business leaders in the room, Beshear thanked the business community for supporting accomplishing so much progress in recent years. He said moving forward, it must be the goal of all to make sure future generations can chase their dreams in Kentucky and he said he remains committed to moving the state forward.
In closing, Beshear joked that while he is not giving a campaign speech, he is looking forward to continuing to speak at the Kentucky Chamber Day Dinner over the next five years.
For the first time, Kentucky has two Black legislative leaders in Senate Minority Leader Gerald Neal and House Minority Leader Derrick Graham. Both gave their first remarks at the annual event Thursday evening.
Leader Graham said Kentucky has a lot to be proud of. “We can all agree we have kept politics from becoming personal,” he said, discussing the progress made in recent years.
As for the House Democratic Caucus priorities in the 2023 session, Graham pointed to prioritizing passage of education initiatives, medical marijuana legislation, enacting sports wagering, improving maternal health, and more.
Senate Democratic Leader Neal noted February is Black History Month and added it is a time to reflect on those who have been marginalized. “I am reminded of the work we have done and still must do to ensure all can thrive in Kentucky,” he said.
Neal said it is the legislature’s job to work with the business community to make Kentucky more competitive while ensuring policy improves the quality of life for all in the state. He touted recent investments in the state, low unemployment, funding for full-day kindergarten, and investing millions in expanding broadband.
Republican leaders closed out the program with remarks filled with lighthearted jabs and discussion of what has been accomplished and what comes next.
As for what’s next, Neal said Kentucky must focus on policies like enacting medical marijuana legislation and investing in high-quality education.
Kentucky House Speaker David Osborne said the House majority is standing up every day for the hard-working people of Kentucky and pointed to measurable results that have been realized in the state, including budgets and road plans based on needs, the largest budget reserves in Kentucky history, a modernized tax code, and more.
He said these things had been accomplished despite disagreements between the legislature and the Governor, including 58 veto overrides and multiple lawsuits.
Osborne said his caucus is focused on building a workforce that supports Kentucky’s future and continuing to focus on education, including historic investments in the state’s education system.
Senate President Robert Stivers said he is proud of the strong leadership in the House and the Senate that have worked on legislation changing the trajectory of people in communities that have been left behind.
He talked at length about tax policies passed in recent years. In addressing opposition to current efforts to lower the individual income tax, Stivers pointed to tax reforms around the bourbon industry in 2014 in 2015. He said while the state took a hit on lost tax revenue. First, Kentucky is now bringing in tens of millions of dollars in revenue thanks to those changes, the same results will come from tax reforms happening in 2022 and beyond.
“The future is very bright. Best days are in front of us because of the policies we have implemented working with the Kentucky Chamber,” Stivers said in closing.
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