Kentucky’s legendary distilling industry has a significant impact on the state’s economy, producing 95% of the world’s bourbon and contributing $3 billion in gross state product while generating $166 million a year in tax revenue. The Chamber strongly supports initiatives to protect and grow this signature industry.
For Kentucky to maintain its dominance in the distilling industry and attract new distilleries, the General Assembly must update its archaic alcohol tourism, tax and hospitality statutes to take advantage of this thriving homegrown industry. In addition, Kentucky’s bourbon industry is supported by small business retailers that provide specialized product knowledge and ample selection of craft spirits and wines to consumers. The Chamber opposes changing the current retail quota license system to allow the sale of wine in grocery stores because it would have a negative impact on our signature industry and damage consumers’ product access, education and choice.
Kentucky’s equine industry is world renowned, with an impact of more than $4 billion on Kentucky’s economy and more than 80,000 to 100,000 full-time equivalent jobs. Kentucky is struggling, however, to retain its status as the “Horse Capital of the World” due to its inability to compete with other racing states that use alternative gaming revenues to increase purses and breeding incentives. States such as Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Indiana and West Virginia have been successful in attracting Kentucky horse owners and breeders and industry-related jobs. The Chamber supports programs and initiatives to protect and enhance the growth of the equine industry, including innovative tax approaches, purse increases, increased funding for breeder incentive programs and other assistance to allow our signature equine industry to remain competitive.
Kentucky is well known for its abundant coal resources, and the state’s low energy costs are among our most compelling competitive advantages when recruiting new businesses. Kentucky’s industrial electric power costs ranked fourth lowest in the nation as of March 2016 while the average retail price for residential customers was the seventh lowest in the country. Low utility rates attract jobs and investment to the Commonwealth and help offset our less competitive business elements. We must protect our energy rates from overbearing federal regulations, fuel mandates and tax policy changes that will raise rates and neutralize Kentucky’s competitive energy prices. Consideration should be given to exempting energy costs for manufacturers from any local option sales tax adopted by voters.
Many areas of Kentucky are underserved by health care professionals, contributing to poor access and higher medical costs for Kentucky’s citizens. Kentucky lacks sufficient numbers of physician specialists, nurses, physician’s assistants, pharmacists, dentists, mental health professionals and allied health personnel. This lack of skilled professionals contributes to fewer regular check-ups, poorer health and higher costs to the medical system over the long term. Addressing this situation can help increase employment and simultaneously contribute to a healthier Kentucky. To help address this need, the Chamber supports a comprehensive state strategy to increase the number of health care professionals trained in Kentucky as well as innovative approaches to encourage them to practice here.
Kentucky’s central location, historically low energy rates, navigable waterways and relatively low cost of doing business have made the Commonwealth home to a number of manufacturers. With over 238,000 Kentuckians employed in the business of manufacturing goods in Kentucky, it is imperative that Kentucky’s economic development strategies work to maintain these critical advantages to protect and grow manufacturing jobs.
Visitors are attracted to Kentucky to experience our bourbon distilleries, rich history, horse farms and race tracks and numerous sporting and outdoor attractions. The tourism industry boasts a $13.7 billion impact to Kentucky’s economy, and the reach of the industry is statewide. Visitors spending money in Kentucky have spurred the creation of 186,200 jobs as of 2015 generating $3.1 billion in wages. The Kentucky Chamber recognizes the importance of our tourism industry and supports the investment in critical infrastructure such as state parks as well as the adoption of policies and programs that allow our attractions to flourish.