Kentucky Chamber of Commerce prepares for legislative session

HAZARD, Ky. (WYMT) – Kentucky Chamber of Commerce officials have prepared legislative priorities ahead of the 2022 session that begins in January.

The non-partisan House represents the interests of business leaders across the Commonwealth. They partner with research organizations and other interests to educate and promote a business-friendly agenda that they believe benefits the entire Commonwealth.

At the top of the agenda is a tax overhaul package that aims to reduce state income tax.

“It’s tough to tackle tax reform, but other states are doing tough things,” said Kate Shanks, House vice president for public affairs. “If we don’t, if we kind of stand still and maintain the status quo, what’s going to happen is other states are going to compete with us.”

In 2018, Kentucky went from an income tax of 6% to 5%.

“I think it’s important that we have a tax code that’s fair and I think it’s important that we don’t tax hard work,” Shanks added.

To educate lawmakers on income tax options, the House has partnered with The Tax Foundation, a group that tries to measure states’ competitiveness to attract business and promote economic growth.

When the income tax rate fell in 2018, the following year, Kentucky jumped in the Tax Foundation’s rankings, from 36th to 19th in terms of competitiveness.

Shanks added that they will, as always, seek to promote Kentucky’s flagship industries, including bourbon and horse racing.

They also hope to push for legislation to address the workforce crisis and reform the criminal justice system.

Another top priority, which will have a big impact on a growing industry in Eastern Kentucky, is investment in infrastructure.

“The Mountain Drive, of course, is important to eastern Kentucky. Widening the Mountain Parkway to get people to jobs and to get goods out is also important, ”Shanks said.

Shanks added that the Chamber considers the area great for tourism.

According to Maggy Monhollen, director of the Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission, the region already attracts a lot of tourists, but more infrastructure would be useful.

“It’s all about experience,” said Monhollen. “If people have a bad traffic experience and try to get around, they get frustrated, they get worse and they don’t want to come back. “

She believes that the return of people gives the region a unique opportunity beyond economic stimulation.

“It allows us to present ourselves in a positive light and let people know all the great things that we are known for,” she said.

Sometimes the solution to improving the experience of visitors is to direct them to natural attractions.

“The Corbin Tourism Commission worked with the town to get a grant to install wayfinding signage a few years ago and it has helped tremendously,” said Monhollen.

The Daniel Boone area of ​​eastern Kentucky welcomed nearly 8 million travelers in 2020, up from 2019.

Before the pandemic, the number of trips alone saw Whitley County alone generate $ 100 million in spending per year. This money generates tax revenue.

“When the government can get more taxes, we can do more things in the community where people live, work and play,” Monhollen said.

Kentucky Chamber officials added that investing in infrastructure would not only improve the tourism industry … but open up new people to jobs in new fields that can be lengthy right now.

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