Perspective: Budget session sets Kentucky agenda

By Dave Adkisson

When the General Assembly convenes in January, it’s a sure bet the state budget will have a prominent place on the agenda. The spending plan is always the subject of lengthy deliberations and debate, and that is as it should be since the budget establishes the state’s priorities for its projects and programs.

Dave Adkisson is president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
Dave Adkisson is president of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

The Kentucky Chamber’s interest in the budget stems from our review of state spending over the past few years and our findings that appropriations of Kentuckians’ tax dollars have been moving away from education and economic development and toward such unsustainable areas as corrections, Medicaid and public employee health benefits.

That’s why the chamber’s legislative agenda includes attention to the budget deliberations with an emphasis on prioritized spending on areas that will build a stronger business climate – meaning education and economic development.

We also will advocate that lawmakers maintain sustainable debt levels and adhere to spending principles that limit spending to 6 percent of the state economy, eliminate the ongoing structural deficit and ensure an adequate “rainy day fund” for emergencies.

Although the budget always commands attention, the chamber will focus also on key areas that our policy councils believe offer an opportunity to move Kentucky forward.

Education

• Kentucky’s adoption of tougher academic standards was an important step toward ensuring students are prepared to succeed in college and career. We will continue our strong support for the implementation of the standards in the state’s classrooms.

• We will support the enactment of a charter school law to give all children access to the best education possible.

• Our agenda also includes support for early childhood education and for protecting school funding.

Public-private partnerships

• We will push for a comprehensive plan to encourage the creation of partnerships between private companies and government to save tax dollars while providing needed projects and services.

Health & wellness

• We will continue to support the creation of incentives for workplace-based wellness programs and enactment of a statewide smoke-free law.

• Improving the medical liability climate also is a priority item.

Energy

• Supporting the infrastructure of Kentucky’s signature coal industry has long been a priority for the chamber and that will continue in the 2014 session.

• We will work to maintain Kentucky’s low-cost utility rates by opposing proposals that would change the make-up of Kentucky’s non-partisan Public Service Commission.

Talk about tax reform continues around the Capitol, although most observers are skeptical about whether anything meaningful can be accomplished in a year when all House seats and half of those in the Senate will be on the ballot.

The Kentucky Chamber is on record supporting comprehensive tax reform to ensure a competitive climate that will promote long-term economic development and job growth. Since taxes have a significant impact on business decisions that lead to such growth, the chamber believes any reform should adhere to the following principles: support growth and competitiveness, reduce the cost of capital, simplify the tax code, promote fairness and continue to focus on state spending to ensure investment in such future-building areas as education.

To improve competitiveness, the chamber will also support giving local governments, with voter approval, the option to temporarily increase the sales tax for targeted economic development projects.

Clearly, our agenda is a full one, and we know that additional issues will emerge as the session progresses. As always, we look forward to the opportunity to represent the interests of Kentucky’s employers as we work together to build a stronger future for our commonwealth.

Download the Kentucky Chamber’s 2014 Legislative Agenda at kychamber.com/2014agenda.

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