Touting the “best economy in 30 years,” Kentucky Senate President Roberts Stivers told two local chambers of commerce Tuesday that the 2019 legislative session will be a time to spur even more growth through effective policymaking.
Stivers was the featured speaker for a joint membership luncheon between the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the Knox County Chamber of Commerce, which was held at The Corbin Center.
Stivers pointed to the Bowling Green area as an example of the bustling economy in Kentucky.
“They have 6,500 jobs in the Warren County work area … unfilled jobs,” Stivers said.
He added that there are about 3,000 unfilled jobs in the London, Corbin and Somerset area.
Stivers said he’s noticed that the market for coal has rebounded some, which has led to more employment. He pointed to passage of “right to work” legislation, reductions in the cost of Worker’s Compensation Insurance for companies and reductions in unnecessary regulations as part of the reason for the economic boom.
But one of the biggest impediments to filling those positions is what Stivers says is the “number one problem in the state, bar none” … the opioid crisis.
“It is ripping families apart,” he said.
And, it is removing otherwise good workers from the labor force because they are addicted and can’t pass a drug screen.
“It is a problem that affects every part of society that we know,” Stivers said.
He said the issue would be front and center during 2019’s meeting of the General Assembly, alongside tax reform, and more reduction of regulations.
Stivers touched on the fight during the past session over pension reform, and said an analysis done by the Kentucky Education Association, the union that represents most of the state’s teachers, showed that only 9 percent of the problem could be laid at the feet of funding by the General Assembly. Even if the pension system would have been “fully funded,” it still would have been over $11 billion in the hole.
Stivers also touched on the decision to tax some services to garner more revenue. He noted that the income tax on individuals and companies went down from 5 percent to 4 percent, and noted the idea is to slowly move to a system where there is little to no tax on income.
Answering questions from the crowd, Stivers talked about the need to encourage more vocational and trade type education, and spoke about tourism opportunities in the state, including a new multi-million dollar elk viewing facility being constructed in Bell County.
“I think our better days are before us,” he said.
The luncheon was sponsored by Southeast Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries.