Kentucky Chamber of Commerce unveils pro-growth 2022 legislative agenda

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce unveils pro-growth 2022 legislative agenda

November 11, 2021 0 By Steve Bittenbender

With the Kentucky General Assembly 2022 session starting in less than two months, the state’s leading business organization has come out with a list of legislative priorities to make the state more competitive economically.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce identified seven areas of focus for its agenda. Business leaders want lawmakers to support legislation that gives Kentucky a competitive tax system, solves the ongoing workforce crisis, invests in infrastructure, protects the rights of employers, safeguards business liability protections, enacts criminal justice reforms and spurs growth within the state’s signature industries.

In a statement, Chamber President and CEO Ashli Watts said that the COVID-19 recovery gives Kentucky a chance to “outcompete other states” for the new jobs that are emerging.

“The economy is changing: new technologies are emerging, workforce trends are evolving, and businesses and industries are pivoting and restructuring,” Watts said. “Public policy in Kentucky must change as well in order for the Commonwealth to compete in today’s shifting economic landscape.”

One obstacle to the state’s competitiveness is a complex tax code that relies on income and production. The chamber said that puts the state at a disadvantage when competing against other states for economic development projects.

Business leaders want to see lawmakers build on reforms passed in the 2018 and 2019 sessions, but they warn that tax cuts alone aren’t the answer.

“Kentucky cannot simply cut or reform its way out of current funding challenges and should improve Kentucky’s competitiveness while producing net new revenue to support education, workforce development, and many other needs,” the chamber states in a 29-page report detailing its agenda.

Part of the solution, the report states, is moving from income-based taxes to consumption-based taxes, provided business-to-business services are not taxed. That would hinder job creation, business leaders said.

The state’s infrastructure is a point of emphasis for the chamber, especially the roadways. The report points out that 8% of Kentucky’s roads are poor, with 16% of major urban roads in poor shape.

Chamber leaders say they back legislation in Frankfort and Washington D.C. that would create new and sustainable funding streams for maintenance of existing roads and the development of a modern transportation system.

Several business issues also are priorities heading into the new session.

The agenda includes calling for lawmakers to protect employers’ abilities to “use all available tools” to keep workers, customers, and others safe from COVID-19. That includes the right to require vaccination or masks on premises. However, the chamber also said that governments should not try to intervene and apply universal prohibitions.

Workforce issues are also a concern, especially since the chamber released a report noting that Kentucky has one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the nation. Business leaders have offered lawmakers several recommendations in their agenda to increase the number of people in the workforce.

From a criminal justice standpoint, the business community calls for a modernization of the state’s system. That includes making drug possession charges misdemeanors, providing non-violent, non-sexual offense criminals with job training and licensure opportunities that would allow them to enter the workforce upon their release.

The chamber also wants to dissuade lawmakers from filing or passing bills “in the name of religious freedom” that could deter individuals from moving to Kentucky or establishing a business in the state.

“To flourish, Kentucky companies must develop and retain a diverse, inclusive, and skilled workforce,” the agenda states. “With such goals in mind, the Kentucky Chamber works tirelessly for pro-growth policies that will attract and retain employers and talent for our state.”

The chamber’s full 2022 agenda can be found here.

This article was originally posted on Kentucky Chamber of Commerce unveils pro-growth 2022 legislative agenda