Ky. needs 'serious work' to improve business, Chamber touts Right to Work

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on July 17, 2012 at 6:46 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 17 at 6:46 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) -- A Kentucky Chamber of Commerce report released Tuesday says Kentucky "has serious work to do to become a more competitive place to do business and achieve economic prosperity."

"We have great advantages like our central location, our hard working people," Dave Adkisson, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President told WHAS11, "but we've got some problems we need to overcome."

The report doesn't gloss over Kentucky's weaknesses:

· ranked 47th out of the 50 states in per capita income
· ranked fifth overall in citizens below the poverty level
· Compared to typical Americans, Kentuckians are less likely to improve their economic standing by the end of their prime working years.

Adkisson says while Kentucky's productivity is back above pre-recession levels, the jobs are still two years away.

"It's going to be a sluggish grind to get jobs back," he said.

The report says - compared with other states - Kentucky has several factors in its favor:

·    Low cost of doing business
·    Low cost of living
·    Seventh-lowest energy costs in the country

But that's still not enough.

The report calls on Kentucky to adopt controversial "Right to Work" legislation that allows workers in union shops to opt of paying for union services.

The chamber says its time for Kentucky to join the 23 other states with similar legislation.  Indiana's passage of Right to Work sparked protests and a lawmaker walkout in 2011.

The chamber's plan is "anti-union and hypocritical" said Bill Londrigen, Kentucky AFL-CIO President. 

Londrigen said when an Owensboro union petitioned to opt of paying chamber of commerce dues, the chamber said it would be unfair to allow some members not to pay for services enjoyed by all.

Adkisson said he's convinced that Kentucky is losing "several thousand jobs per year" by not having Right to Work.

"We are now surrounded by states that have a right to work law.  And I know it's extremely controversial, it's very emotional.  But at some point we've got to have a debate in this state."
 
Education, however, is Kentucky's most urgent need, Adkisson said.

"We've got to send more people to college.  We've got to complete the degree programs and our economy will take care of itself if we can do that."

Kentucky ranks in the middle of the pack on Regulatory and Tax Environment, but is among the worst states for legal costs in the Tort Liability Index.

The chamber says prospective employers are attracted to kentucky's Relatively low health insurance costs and below average Workers' compensation rates, but warns that without a right-to-work law as approved in Indiana last year, businesses will be less likely to expand operations or move here.


 

(July 17, 2012) - Kentucky has serious work to do to become a more competitive place to do business and achieve economic prosperity, according to a new report from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

Ready for Jobs? examines how Kentucky compares to other states on key indicators of a competitive business environment and finds the state coming up short in such areas as health, education and tort liability but performing relatively well in business taxation and the cost of doing business.

The report, which includes recommendations for improvement, also addresses the importance of protecting and promoting such key sectors as coal, bourbon, manufacturing and the equine industry.

Here is a closer look at the state’s strengths and weaknesses in key areas as reported in Ready for Jobs?

Economic Climate
Strengths:

  • Low cost of doing business
  • Low cost of living
  • Seventh-lowest energy costs in the country
  • Top tier of states for economic growth from 2009-2010

Weaknesses:

  • 47th in per capita income
  • Fifth 5th in the number of citizens living below the poverty level.
  • Citizens less likely to improve their economic standing at the end of their prime working years than are typical Americans


Regulatory and Tax Environment
Strengths:

  • Ranked in the top half of states in the State Business Tax Climate Index, based on the impact of five major taxes: corporate, individual income, sales, unemployment insurance and property


Weaknesses:

  • Ranked among the worst states for tort liability in the Tort Liability Index
  • Ranked 30th in overall regulatory environment (costs imposed by government)
  • Ranked 30th in state and local tax burden as a percentage of income


Employment Climate
Strengths:

  • Relatively low health insurance costs when compared to other states
  • Workers’ compensation rates slightly below average


Weaknesses:

  • No right-to-work law.
  • Above the national average for unemployment insurance employer contributions as a percent of both taxable wages and total wages


Education
Strengths:

  • Significant progress in increasing college enrollment and the number of degrees awarded
  • Dramatic improvement in national ranking on key education indicators, including K-12 achievement 


Weaknesses:

  • Low overall education attainment
  • ACT scores trail national average


Health/Quality of Life
Strengths:

  • Low cost of living
  • Low crime rate


Weaknesses:

  • Health status ranked 43rd with high rates of smoking, obesity, cancer deaths and preventable hospitalizations
  • Ranked 49th in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index


Infrastructure
Strengths:

  • Ranked 14th overall in state highway system performance
  • Motor fuel taxes below national average 


Weaknesses:

  • High highway fatality rates
  • Urban interstate congestion


Government Spending and Debt
Strengths:

  • Progress in limiting spending growth in Medicaid, corrections and public employee health insurance
  • Medicaid managed care expanded statewide
  • Sentencing reforms enacted to reduce the prison population
  • Spending increases in public employee health insurance reduced to 2% per year.


Weaknesses:

  • State spending per capita ranked 20th
  • State debt as a percent of income 12th
  • Ranked 8th in state pension debt measured as percent of income
  • Identified as among the worst states in the country in terms of pension funding


The full report, with detailed findings and data sources, is online at kychamber.com/jobs.

“It is our hope the information in this report will promote action to create policies that will help businesses grow, create good jobs and build a stronger future for all Kentuckians,” said Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the Chamber. “We stand ready to work in a constructive partnership with policymakers and other businesses and organizations to achieve our shared goal of moving the state forward.”

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