The way to build a prosperous Kentucky is to create thriving communities that unlock potential in our people. Every Kentuckian — no matter where they come from, their economic background, health, race, ethnicity, age or gender — is an asset to our commonwealth. The healthier, more educated and financially secure we are as individuals, families and communities, the more prosperous we will be as a state.
To get there requires public policies that build capacities, open up opportunities and promote equity. The approach outlined in An Economic Agenda for a Thriving Commonwealth recognizes we build an economy from the bottom up and the middle out.
Unfortunately, Kentucky’s economic policy choices are too often made with misguided tunnel vision, focusing narrowly on an ineffective attempt to lure corporations by sacrificing our quality of life through lower wages and corporate tax breaks. By undermining families’ economic well-being and our ability to invest in education, infrastructure and other vital public goods, these failed trickle-down strategies erode, rather than enhance, our economy.
We have the tools we need — evidence-based strategies that build on and reinforce each other, creating momentum toward economic growth and a higher quality of life for us all. By building a stronger foundation for development through education, a modern infrastructure, greater community health and resilience and more economic security, we create shared prosperity.
Click the links below for specific policy recommendations comprising the five strategies.
Improve Job Quality and Economic Security: When good jobs are a policy priority and job quality standards are strong, the entire economy benefits. There are many ways to stimulate our economy by making sure Kentuckians have money in their pockets, such as a higher minimum wage, paid sick and family leave, and protection from discrimination. These policies will also raise workers’ standard of living, reduce poverty and lessen disparities between demographic groups. In turn, greater economic security leads to better health, education and employment outcomes for future generations, and increases tax revenues.
Strengthen Education for All Kentuckians: Preparing for the commonwealth’s future means giving Kentucky kids a strong start and adults a chance to get ahead. By increasing access to high-quality child care and preschool, reinvesting in K-12 schools, and making higher education and skills training more affordable we can provide all residents, regardless of where they are from, the education they deserve. Kentuckians equipped with knowledge and a love of learning will thrive in the labor force and become innovators and entrepreneurs who move our state forward.
Build Healthy, Resilient Communities: Illness, addiction, financial challenges and incarceration touch all Kentuckians, whether directly or indirectly, but particularly harm families and communities already facing structural barriers to opportunity. Individuals and families can weather challenges and communities can thrive when we all have access to high-quality, affordable health care, secure housing and support for disabled family members or those struggling with addiction, and when our laws are just and our criminal justice system is focused on rehabilitation.
Equip Kentucky for Prosperity in the Modern Economy: Having a modern, well-functioning infrastructure is vital to the health and well-being of our communities and our businesses. We need to invest in clean water, renewable energy resources, access to broadband, effective financial systems, and roads and bridges. These investments will make us safer, improve our quality of life, protect our natural assets and support modern economic activity and growth. In addition, prioritizing high-quality infrastructure across our state creates good employment opportunities for Kentuckians and can bridge gaps between poor and wealthy communities.
Clean Up the Tax Code to Invest in the Commonwealth: Taxes are how we work together to invest in the foundations of thriving communities. By cleaning up costly, ineffective tax breaks, and making sure those at the top contribute their fair share, we can create a Kentucky that works for all of us. More resources will allow us to reinvest in our schools, provide adequate community services, upgrade our infrastructure and more.
Click here for a full PDF of KCEP’s new report, “An Economic Agenda for a Thriving Commonwealth.”