In the final weeks of the session, The Kentucky Chamber spearheaded an effort of several chambers of commerce from across the state to encourage legislators to pass ten priorities to help businesses in a slowly recovering economy.
Now with only one day left, we have passed eight of the ten priorities! WE NEED YOUR HELP TO PUSH THE FINAL FEW ISSUES ACROSS THE FINISH LINE. PLEASE PICK UP THE PHONE AND CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS.
1. Unemployment insurance – We urge the legislature to develop a mechanism to pay back the interest Kentucky owes on its debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance. Inaction is simply not an option. If the state defaults on its loan, Kentucky employers will be hit with a massive $607 million penalty, increasing UI taxes from $42 to $420 per employee. The burden to pay the interest must not be placed solely on the backs of employers, who are already facing state and federal UI tax increases. HB 495 was signed into law by the governor.
2. Career/technical education – SB 38 and HB 75 improve career and technical education programs to ensure students are developing the skills required in the modern workplace. There are currently high-tech manufacturing jobs in Kentucky that cannot be filled because we do not have enough qualified workers. A re-tooled career and technical education system will also keep students engaged and challenged, encouraging them to stay in school longer and earn their degrees. SB 38 was signed into law by the governor.
3. Angel investment – HB 113 provides tax credits to individual investors who further the establishment or expansion of small businesses, create jobs and foster the development of new products and technologies. Angel investors are key to funding small and medium-sized startups, but Kentucky is now lagging behind border states such as Ohio and Tennessee that have incentives to attract these investors. Unfinished business – did not pass the House or Senate.
4. Prescription drug abuse – We are encouraged by the bi-partisan efforts (HB 4 and SB 2) to address the prescription drug epidemic in Kentucky. Not only does it strain families, it also hurts business. Prescription drug abuse in the workplace compromises the quality and safety of our workforce and increases workers’ compensation and health care costs. HB 4 passed the House and Senate. House and Senate need to work out differences in two versions. CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS AT 1-800-372-7181 AND ASK THEM TO ADDRESS PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE THIS SESSION BECAUSE IT COSTS LIVES AND MONEY.
5. Local tax consolidation – HB 277 cuts some of the red tape of doing business in Kentucky by creating a standard form to be used by all local tax districts for the filing of net profits, gross receipts and occupational license taxes. The current system consists of more than 200 local taxing districts each with its unique filing form, creating an administrative nightmare for employers. HB 277 was signed into law by the governor.
6. Pension reform – Kentucky’s public employee pension system and outstanding liabilities continue to drown the state’s coffers, hurting our credit rating and risking large tax increases on business in the future. While we favor comprehensive reform and the move to a 401K-type system, at the very least the legislature should suspend the annual Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) until the system is more adequately funded. HB 300 was signed into law by the governor.
7. State debt limit – SB 1 prohibits the legislature from appropriating more than 6 percent of General Fund-appropriated revenues to bonded indebtedness. Six percent is a generally accepted industry standard used by bond rating agencies and is essential for Kentucky to get its financial house in order. A fiscally-sound government means lower interest rates for much-needed infrastructure projects and lower taxes for business. While SB 1 only passed the Senate, the state budget significantly reduces state debt – addressing the Chamber’s spending principles in our most recent report. The budget now heads to the governor for his signature.
8. Automotive incentives – HB 400 amends the Kentucky Jobs Retention Act by allowing projects related to automobile and parts manufacturing to seek economic development incentives regardless of their location in Kentucky. This legislation is needed to create a level playing field for our automotive industry, which is responsible for thousands of jobs and has an enormous ripple effect across the state. HB 400 was signed into law by the governor.
9. Property restoration – HB 465 incentivizes business to restore blighted properties, encouraging economic growth, increasing surrounding property values and revitalizing communities. HB 465 establishes a Brownfields Redevelopment Program to extend nonliability to property owners seeking to redevelop a site where a release of petroleum, pollutants or contaminants has occurred. HB 465 was signed into law by the governor.
10. Teacher professionalization – Kentucky’s education system includes two practices that can make it difficult to remove poor performing teachers from the classroom, hurting student achievement – automatic tenure and the termination and suspension appeals process. SB 122 and SB 132 make great strides in correcting these personnel policies that are out of line with current employment practices. These measures would help to ensure we have qualified teachers in every classroom, increasing the quality of education for our future workforce. Unfinished business – SB 122 passed Senate; not considered by House. SB 132 not considered.