LEXINGTON, Ky. — At the 2024 Kentucky Chamberhttps://www.kychamber.com Day Dinner on Thursday night, a gathering of 2,000 leaders from across the state, Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts began by highlighting a sense of optimism and a commitment to the fact that there is “far more that unites us than divides us.”
“I’ll be the first to note that these concepts may be falling out of favor in Washington politics and national media outlets. But this isn’t the case for Kentucky job creators. Business has no time for the politics of pessimism. And business leaders know that we are at our best, as a country and a Commonwealth, when we focus on what unites us instead of what we are told divides us. That is why the Chamber published Kentucky’s Winning Strategy – a unifying vision for the Commonwealth’s future focused on priorities shared by all Kentuckians,” Watts said.
Kentucky Chamber 2024 Board Chair Candace McGraw, CEO of CVG Airport, added to this by pointing to many of the business community’s priorities and emphasizing how much stronger the business community is working as one.
”Together, alongside our political leaders, we are working to make Kentucky the best place to do business and a community in which we can be proud to raise our families. We may have different ideas of how to achieve that objective—and you will hear our legislative leadership and the Governor articulate those different paths tonight—but I truly believe this is what gives us common cause as Kentuckians,” McGraw said.
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear shared similar sentiments about the ways the state is moving forward and touted the state’s recent successes with business investments, historic amounts in the General Fund and Rainy Day Fund, and much more.
“I really hope everyone is excited about what more we can do together. I think you all can feel the energy across Kentucky. There’s a CEO somewhere who is looking at Kentucky right now. And with this kind of progress, we’re showing we’re open for business,” Beshear said.
He also talked about his budget proposal which is largely focused on education, water and wastewater investments, infrastructure, money to help close business investment deals, and more.
On the heels of passing the state’s next two-year budget out of his legislative chamber, House Speaker David Osborne said they have taken a responsible approach to funding priorities like infrastructure, public safety, and record funding for education with $1.3 billion in the budget. They have also put funding toward the unfunded pension liabilities, money for teacher raises, and more.
Osborne also noted that taxpayers have more than $1.2 billion back in their pockets thanks to tax reforms passed by the General Assembly and supported by the Kentucky Chamber to lower Kentucky’s individual income tax.
Even with this progress, Osborne said there is more work to do pointing to support for the state’s new employee child care assistance program and a new bill to allow paid family leave to be offered by employers as an insurance product. He emphasized the importance of focusing on these items and education because “tomorrow’s workforce is in the classroom today.”
Senate President Robert Stivers noted the progress that has been made on the Kentucky Chamber’s priorities since 2016 through work with the legislature that has made the state more competitive.
He said he expects that work to continue as the Senate has now received the House version of the budget and they plan to make high-impact investments that will lead Kentucky “into the future and make us more prosperous.”
“We have the opportunity and the resources so we ask you to help us continue this momentum and growth,” Stivers told the business leaders in the room.
In his final Kentucky Chamber Day speech, retiring House Minority Leader Derrick Graham reflected on his time in the legislature and the many friends he has made during his 21-year tenure in the General Assembly. He also spoke on the need to focus on Kentucky’s education system and support those who are leading the future workforce of the Commonwealth as well as key priorities of his caucus to ensure responsible state spending and ensuring Kentuckians have clean drinking water and safe roads.
And Senate Minority Leader Gerald Neal kicked off his speech by commending the work of the Kentucky Chamber.
“Seriously, your mission in supporting a prosperous business climate in the Commonwealth, and in promoting business retention and recruitment is essential to our collective future,” Neal said. “Those who strive to making life better for themselves and for others—from small ‘mom and pop’ efforts to the giant operations that dot the varied landscape that we call Kentucky—all contribute to the economic vibrance of the Commonwealth, but all open doors of possibilities that give hope and sustenance to us all.”
He encouraged the crowd to ensure there is a focus on education, policies that make Kentucky more equitable, accessible health care, and more.
—By Jacqueline Pitts, Kentucky Chamber