Economic growth is the tactic that can improve what is good and cure most social ills. If the results are shared wisely, the new wealth creates further growth and benefits the population of whole state.
We will never achieve a perfect system, of course. Thus, the art of political leadership is to not let criticism of shortfalls in reaching goals become conflict that diverts our energy from the real goal, which is to keep the focus on moving forward. As we inevitably fall short of having enough resources for EVERYTHING, don’t let perfect become the enemy of good.
The good news is that Kentucky is moving and growing today like never before. A fortunate cycle has been created by more than a decade of better economic development incentives, tax reforms, business and job recruitment, and growth. The work ethic and cooperative spirit of Kentuckians and their leaders is an essential element.
The commonwealth’s political leaders had the courage to remove sales tax exemptions and cut income tax, and then the wisdom to adopt ongoing state income tax cuts tied to revenue goals that trigger successive cuts. It’s business friendly, which brings more and better jobs, and that is good for Kentuckians and their families.
As the General Assembly gathers for the 2024 session to write the next biennial budget, the political haggling is growing more enjoyable. The job now is how to piece out a revenue pie that is growing rather than divide the cuts of one that is shrinking.
Successfully improving life for Kentuckians requires smart and cooperative sharing.
Kentucky still has needs, many of them. We are doing better, yes, but the state has health problems, lower than average educational attainment and lower than average income. The three are related. They attach also to crime and to tragic issues such as substance abuse, which is killing tens of thousands of young adults at a time when every absence is felt.
Workforce development—attraction, retention, training—continues to play a larger role in our global economic competition. State and local leaders are partnering for job training, which is an important element to put in place. The cause-and-effect relationship is clear. But the cause-and-effect benefit of less concrete pieces is important also. It is a challenge to see investment in public social needs such as better education, public safety and healthcare as business investment. But it surely is because business absolutely benefits.
Consider investment in mental health processes, which until only recently had been profoundly obscured by stigmas that made them unmentionable and thus untreatable. Unmet mental healthcare needs impede growth and productivity. Yet if we take steps to provide this basic care, it could pay a major return on investment.
Tax reform propels the growth we need, but so can improving the health and education of Kentuckians. Our current good times mean that doing both is possible.
The goal is ongoing economic growth. Better tax policy and better social services both support the goal. Beware those who seek to create division when cooperation is how we make a better quality of life for all.