After months of campaign ads, debates and mudslinging, the 2016 election cycle is finally over. Not only did the outcome determine who the next president will be, it also made a significant shift in the makeup of the Kentucky House.
For the first time in 95 years, there will be more Republicans than Democrats. Kentucky has often been referred to as a “purple” state because of its split-party legislature. But now, with a Republican governor and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, the commonwealth is a definite shade of red.
A new majority in the state House presents an opportunity for success for many pro-business pieces of legislation that, even with broad support, have never been able to get enough traction to secure final passage. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce is hopeful that under the leadership of Rep. Jeff Hoover and his colleagues, Kentucky will finally be able to benefit from some common-sense, job-creating policies that focus on economic growth.
▪ Right to work. It’s time to make Kentucky a right-to-work state and allow employees to make a personal decision on whether to pay dues to a union. States with right-to-work laws report faster per capita income growth, faster growth in manufacturing and non-agricultural jobs, greater capital expenditures, lower unemployment and fewer work stoppages.
As Kentucky has struggled to recruit and retain business, the absence of right-to-work legislation has resulted in the ceding of competitive ground to other states. In fact, Kentucky is the only southern state not to have enacted right-to-work legislation. With Indiana, Michigan and West Virginia’s new right-to-work laws, our state stands out as a conspicuous outlier in this much-needed area of reform.
▪ Prevailing wage. It is also time for Kentucky to repeal its prevailing-wage law. A 2014 study by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, a nonpartisan research organization of the legislature, determined that the prevailing-wage law inflated labor costs by 24 percent on average and increased total project costs by an average of 10 to 16 percent.
Added spending on public-works projects by taxpayers means fewer projects are built or existing ones, such as schools, are scaled back. Further, spending on higher-cost public-works projects means less money to shore up Kentucky’s ailing pension system, a problem that national credit agencies are watching closely, and less money for education and economic-development programs.
▪ Charter schools. On the education front, Kentucky is one of seven states that do not allow charter schools, which the chamber has long advocated. Charter schools are helping other states close achievement gaps, empower parents and discover innovative ways to help students and teachers succeed in the classroom.
▪ Legal reform. Finally, the increasing cost of civil litigation — whether through legal fees, higher liability insurance premiums, defensive business practices or simply reduced investment opportunities — is a significant burden for employers. These costs are hurting businesses, their employees and consumers as they are passed on in the form of higher prices and fewer choices.
Because of this, the chamber has long advocated for the establishment of legal-liability reform and is hopeful that the new House will lead to a balanced, efficient and fair legal system.
The 2016 election is over. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves, put politics aside, focus on economic opportunities and get to work making Kentucky the most business-friendly state in the nation.
Dave Adkisson is Kentucky Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.