State must find new strategy for long-term planning

At issue | Articles on the state budget

On June 30, the Kentucky Long-Term Policy Research Center closed its doors — a loss most unfortunate for the citizens of Kentucky.

Funded by the legislature, the center provided clear research and analysis to decision-makers regarding the long-term implications of policy. The center also detailed the critical trends and emerging issues which are likely to impact the state.

At this juncture, should we not be making better long-term decisions? The closing represents a grave misstep by our legislature.

Understandably, a shortfall in revenues forced the state legislature to cut back wherever possible. Kentucky's new $17.1 billion two-year budget includes 3.5 percent cuts in the first year and 4.5 percent in the second year for most state agencies.

As a concerned citizen, I'm glad Kentucky cut spending in certain areas. But as with a tight family budget, the cost-benefit analysis of each expense must be weighed.

Since 1992, the center has been conducting autonomous studies to look at future ramifications of policy decisions.

For example, the tobacco buyout and the budget crises we see today were projected by the center's due diligence. Through careful analysis of the current state tax code, the alarm bell sounded of future budget problems. Kentucky, like its tax system, is in need of beneficial long-term solutions instead of short-term Band-aids.

Forward-thinking analysis helps lawmakers plan for crises like these and even enhance economic development throughout the commonwealth.

Kentucky will not be able to build for the future unless we put in place the plans today. I urge the governor and the legislature to not listen to the shortsightedness of those who say planning and evaluation are not a necessity. We are better than this.

With the recent action of the legislature not to fund the research center, I call for a private-public partnership to be created with organizations such as the Business Roundtable and others to fill the essential gap left behind.

The benefits created from such a program will help move Kentucky forward.