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February 8, 2019 10:51am

Pensions, tax reform, education, and workforce: Major GLI priorities in Governor Bevin’s State of the Commonwealth Address

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin delivered his fourth State of the Commonwealth address last night in a joint session of the General Assembly. “The state of the commonwealth is strong—very strong. We have much to celebrate tonight,” said Bevin.

Governor Bevin touched on a range of important economic indicators to illustrate the Commonwealth’s forward progress in the past few years: $17.7 billion in new investment, close to 50,000 new jobs, and a 65 percent increase in new business leads, just to name a few. Central to his address, however, were several pro-growth legislative initiatives that GLI has worked hard to advance and numerous goals that GLI is actively pursuing in 2019.

  • Modernizing the state tax code: Highlighting many of the pro-growth elements of the General Assembly’s tax reform package from last year, Bevin celebrated the Commonwealth’s improved tax climate. Thanks to reforms supported by GLI—such as simplifying and lowering corporate and individual income tax rates, raising the cigarette tax, changing the apportionment formula, and maintaining important economic development programs—the nonpartisan Tax Foundation now ranks Kentucky’s business tax climate 23rd in the nation. GLI supports additional reforms in 2019 to move the Commonwealth further up the list.     
  • Fully funding pensions: Bevin applauded the legislature’s efforts to fully fund Kentucky’s public pension systems in the 2018-2020 budget. Altogether, pensions now account for about 14 percent of the state general fund. GLI strongly supported fully funding pensions last year, along with using more realistic actuarial assumptions. Bevin also discussed the need for more legislative action on pensions, especially substantive structural reforms, one of GLI’s most important policy goals.  
  • Increased education funding: One of the most consequential aspects of the 2018-2020 budget was the increase to SEEK per pupil funding. “There is more money per pupil being budgeted for K-12 education per pupil and in absolute dollars then than ever in the history of Kentucky,” Bevin pointed out. GLI was a strong advocate for increased SEEK funding in the 2018 session. In 2019, we are encouraging legislators to start thinking proactively on how to build on this increase in next year’s budget session.  
  • School safety: A key part of Bevin’s address was school safety, and he mentioned specifically two bills moving through the legislature: Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1. These bills propose a range of meaningful measures to improve safety in Kentucky schools. GLI has endorsed both pieces of legislation and will be working to advance this issue in the 2019 session.
  • Criminal justice reform: Bevin called for smart, commonsense solutions to improve Kentucky’s criminal justice system. GLI strongly supports criminal justice reform, both as a way to lower state spending on corrections and to increase workforce participation. In past legislative sessions, GLI actively worked on initiatives such as expungement and providing more workforce training opportunities for inmates. Our focus in 2019 is on bail reform and increasing the effectiveness and reach of expungement laws in Kentucky.

Advancing pro-growth, pro-business initiatives requires collaboration with both the legislative and executive branches of government in Kentucky. GLI looks forward to working closely with the General Assembly and Governor’s Office in 2019 to continue moving the Commonwealth forward and accelerating economic growth in Greater Louisville. Read more about GLI’s 2019 State Legislative Priorities.