Over halfway through the 2022 General Assembly, business leaders from across the Commonwealth gathered on Tuesday to hear from the state’s top political leaders at the Kentucky Chamber Day Dinner.
The event was previously scheduled for the first week of the legislative session.
Kentucky Chamber Chair Diane Medley, MCM CPAs and Advisors, discussed the major events of the past two years since the last Chamber Day Dinner and commended the Chamber’s innovation and dedication throughout.
Medley shared the business community’s top priorities of the ongoing 2022 legislative session, including changes to the state’s tax code to make Kentucky more competitive, changes to Kentucky’s unemployment insurance system to improve Kentucky’s workforce participation rate, and more.
She encouraged business leaders to use their voice in Frankfort as the Kentucky Chamber team works every day at the Capitol to make the state more business-friendly.
Kentucky Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts welcomed the crowd of over 1,700, speaking on the vitality of the business community. Especially over the past two years, Watts touted the work of businesses during the coronavirus pandemic to help keep Kentuckians safe and healthy and push the Commonwealth’s economy forward.
She pointed to the work of Kentucky Chamber member companies like Pfizer in developing life-saving vaccines and UPS delivering those vaccines across the nation.
“Tonight, we want to celebrate all of you that have done to help over the past two years,” Watts said. “We are also so excited to get to celebrate the past 75 years of the Kentucky Chamber with you.”
Governor Andy Beshear began his speech by recapping the major events over the past few years of the coronavirus pandemic, catastrophic tornados, and more.
He looked back on how far Kentucky has come since the start of the pandemic—when personal protective equipment was not widely available, when the first vaccines became available, to now, as 76% of Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.
Beshear also took the time to thank business leaders for their leadership and generosity after the December storms —the deadliest tornadoes in Kentucky’s history.
“We do not break,” said Governor Beshear as he touted the resiliency of Kentuckians.
Also, Beshear highlighted the many economic successes Kentucky has seen over the past few years and recognized the work of local leaders, the legislature, and other groups to help secure those record investments.
These investments are important to ensure kids never have to leave Kentucky because there are opportunities are available to them, he said.
However, he said it is critical to make sure the “investments reach every part of Kentucky, including areas that haven’t seen investment in far too long.”
While more jobs become available from these investments, Beshear stressed the need to prepare Kentuckians for the future workforce.
The Commonwealth is building great things, and the rest of the world is noticing, he said.
Senate President Robert Stivers touted the work of the legislature to make the state’s tax code more competitive and highlighted the legislation passed over the last few years that support Kentucky’s signature industries.
A focus on improvements to the unemployment insurance system and work to address the state’s nursing workforce shortage are among the important changes Stivers pointed to as priority issues tackled by the Senate so far this session.
During the event, House Speaker David Osborne talked about the House’s priorities and efforts to make Kentucky a better place to work and live.
Osborne highlighted the House’s work on the state budget to maximize the impact of every single dollar invested, which includes full funding for K-12 education, major investments in post-secondary education, and more.
Osborne also discussed the tax reform package that was passed through his chamber last week, House Bill 8, which would help make the Commonwealth more competitive and keep more money in Kentuckians paycheck each year.
“Our state ranks at the bottom three for workforce participation, and there are nearly 150,000 unfilled jobs in Kentucky, he noted. “It is the challenge of our generation to find the solution to filling those jobs,” Osborne said.
Closing his remarks, Osborne said he looks forward to working to make sure every single Kentuckian has the opportunity to succeed when they want to.
During his speech, Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey talked about the critical need to improve access to childcare across the state, the importance of reforming Kentucky’s justice system, and more.
“This is our moment to come together and to make real and serious investments in our people and our future,” McGarvey said.
House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins spoke on the issues that have passed during the 2022 legislative session and discussed top priorities including sports betting, child care, and restoring voting rights for felons.
Jenkins also highlighted Kentucky’s major economic successes over the past couple of years, including investments from companies like Ford, Tyson Foods, and more.
Jenkins will not be seeking re-election, but closed her speech by saying, “though this is my last time speaking at this event, I will always value the things that are said here.”