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The Bottom Line: Strong tax reform, pro-business focus at center of State of the Commonwealth

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

In his second State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Matt Bevin illustrated that a focus on bringing jobs to Kentucky and passing laws and reforms to make the state more competitive remain at the center of his vision for the state.

During his speech Wednesday night, Bevin said he is working to ensure any company looking at Kentucky as an option for their facilities knows that the state is willing to do what needs to be done to be competitive and attract new jobs.

Bevin touted the pro-business legislation already passed by the General Assembly, discussing the positive impacts the state’s new right-to-work law is already producing and stating that repeal of the prevailing wage is expected to save the state around $132 million per year.

“You asked for change, and change has come,” Bevin said.

Bevin also discussed education issues left to accomplish as well as workforce, legal liability, and justice reform initiatives already in the works. (Gov. Bevin discussed these issues at length exclusively in a recent sit-down interview with The Bottom Line which can be seen here.)

The Republican governor also noted there is still a lot of work to be done on many issues in the state including pension and tax reforms that are likely to come in a special session later in the year.

Bevin said tax reform will be a serious process that will not seek to be revenue-neutral and will need to examine all areas of the state’s tax code including what some hold as “sacred cows.”

Tax reform and changes to the state’s pension systems must go hand-in-hand, Bevin said, because the state is at risk of becoming financially insolvent if they are not.

On pension reform, Bevin again stated that what has been promised to current and retired state workers and teachers will be paid but the benefits for future hires must be examined in order to address the crisis faced by Kentucky because of the woefully underfunded pension systems.

Tough decisions will have to be made on both issues but are absolutely necessary in order to move the state forward, Bevin said.

“Think big. Be bold. This is what you were elected to do,” Bevin told lawmakers in the House chamber where the speech was made.

Much of the beginning of Bevin’s State of the Commonwealth address focused on comments from Kentuckians he has received through letters and emails.

In reading these sentiments from constituents, Bevin did things like thank the janitors who keep the state clean, promise a focus on veteran’s issues, bringing attention to the amount of food wasted in the state and more.

Bevin also thanked Kentucky House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate President Robert Stivers for their work on key issues being passed in Frankfort and noting the historic significance of the progress being made in the 2017 session.

The governor ended his speech by stating Kentucky has so much going for it and ensuring that more growth is yet to come.

For more state government news go to the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s The Bottom Line blog.