KY Policy Blog

What’s In the Criminal Justice Reform Bill, and What’s Not

By Ashley Spalding
February 15, 2017

Senate Bill 120, the bill coming out of the state’s Criminal Justice Policy Assessment Council (CJPAC), proposes some positive steps to address barriers to successful reentry often experienced by former offenders when they are released from jail or prison. Here’s an overview of what is and is not in the bill.

The bill includes:

Second chances for workers with records

SB 120 includes licensing reforms that would increase employment opportunities for workers with records by making it possible for them to receive state occupational licenses in some circumstances. Currently the read more

Harsher Criminal Penalties Not a Proven Way to Address Heroin Problem

By Ashley Spalding
February 15, 2017

We all want to see Kentucky address its devastating drug problems. The issue touches individuals and families from all walks of life across Kentucky, and too many of us have friends, relatives and neighbors who have been hurt in some way by drug addiction.

Senate Bill 14, which passed the Senate yesterday, increases criminal penalties for possession of heroin and fentanyl, drugs that are most frequently involved in overdose deaths, as a solution to these problems . This approach would lock up more Kentuckians struggling with addiction for longer periods read more

Not Yet to Full Economic Recovery

By Jason Bailey
February 13, 2017

The economy as a whole has been slowly improving and Kentucky’s unemployment rate has fallen from 10.9 percent in June 2009 to 4.8 percent now — the lowest rate since 2001. While the low unemployment rate suggests an economy almost fully recovered, another measure of employment shows Kentucky still has a ways to go.

The unemployment rate only counts people who have sought work in the last four weeks – not the individuals who, because of the depth of the job losses in the Great Recession and a slow and read more

No Need to Overinflate Pension Liabilities

By Jason Bailey
February 10, 2017

Lately the governor is saying Kentucky’s unfunded pension liabilities are not the $33 billion reported by the systems’ actuaries, but a much larger $82 billion. That estimate is based on unrealistically low assumptions about the future rate of return on investments.

The size of pension liabilities and amount employers should contribute each year depend on assumptions about future employee growth, retirement, mortality and more. One key assumption is what the average annual rate of return on investments will be. Most pension plans use an assumption of between 7 and 8 read more

Will More Revenue from Tax Reform Be Real and Sustaining?

By Jason Bailey
February 9, 2017

Governor Bevin suggested in his State of the Commonwealth speech that his tax plan will generate more revenue to help Kentucky pay down its large unfunded pension liabilities. Kentucky needs more revenue to honor those debts and make the public investments that build thriving communities. But there are big questions about what he means by more revenue and whether the kind of tax plan he is talking about will do the job.

There are three ways more money could come up in these discussions, only one of which would actually  read more

Low Wages at Bottom Demonstrate Need for Policies that Boost Earnings

By Jason Bailey
February 8, 2017

Following meaningful wage growth in 2015, real wages dropped slightly for Kentucky workers in 2016 and are still below where they were back in 2001. With wages low for a broad swath of the workforce, the state needs policies that would lift earnings in order to boost local economies and ensure more families can make ends meet.

Workers at the 30th percentile of hourly wages in Kentucky (meaning 30 percent of workers make less and 70 percent make more) earned only $12.01 an hour in 2016, according to Current Population read more

Kentucky Should Reject Dangerous Call to Reopen Constitution

By Jason Bailey
February 7, 2017

The Kentucky General Assembly may consider resolutions (versions introduced as HJR 54, HCR 13 and SCR 143) that are part of a well-funded national effort calling for a new convention to rewrite the rules of American government — an idea that could create chaos and jeopardize the U.S. Constitution.

Since the founding of the country, the constitution has been amended 27 times. Each time, Congress passed amendments and then the states ratified them. But Article V of the constitution allows a second method: states can call for a new convention read more

Would Charter School Proposal Negatively Impact Funding of Kentucky’s Existing Public Schools?

By Ashley Spalding
February 6, 2017

One of the key questions about how charter school legislation would change education in Kentucky is how it would affect funding for traditional public schools. Looking at what has occurred in other states and how HB 103 proposes to fund charters, there are reasons for concern.

It might sound like adopting public charter schools would mean no harm to resources — traditional public schools would lose students to charter schools but would no longer bear the costs of educating them. But that’s not the case. As noted in a recent read more

Refugees, Immigrants Important to Kentucky and the Economy: An Overview of the Research

By Anna Baumann
February 1, 2017

From the promise to build a wall paid for by tariffs on Mexican imports and uncertainty about what will happen to DACA (which allows undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them to the U.S. as children to apply for a renewable reprieve from deportation), to a 120-day ban on refugee admissions and an indefinite ban for Syrians, President Trump’s actions and intimations around immigration have sparked outrage and a national debate.

The conversation should take into account immigrants’ integral role in our economy and communities where they work, do business, pay read more

Targeted Refugee Groups Make Important Contributions to Kentucky’s Communities and Economy

By Anna Baumann
January 31, 2017

Two recent reports from the Center for American Progress (CAP) explore the contributions immigrants and refugees make in our communities and local economies – including Syrians and Somalians, two groups targeted by President Trump’s executive order – and find high levels of economic participation.

Many Syrian Immigrants Are Building Lives in Kentucky

According to CAP, among states Kentucky resettled the 16th most Syrian refugees between January 2014 and December 2016 (Kentucky has the 26th largest population of all states). Since the crisis began in 2011, Kentucky has resettled 450 Syrian read more