Kentucky’s new GOP ready to drain the swamp

By Jim Waters - Bluegrass Beacon

Speaker-elect Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, whose Republican caucus will control the Kentucky House of Representatives for the first time since 1921, made it clear: Frankfort should focus on policies that bring economic growth and employment opportunities to the Big Blue State.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, who presides over a body that’s passed pro-growth bills by increasingly larger numbers and wider margins for years concurs with the Speaker, as does Gov. Matt Bevin.

The fact that so many of those bills were blocked by departing Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo’s strong-arm political tactics galvanized Republican senators.

Many senators — even those who didn’t face reelection themselves — had grown so tired of working hard to pass sound legislation only to see it die in some obscure House committee without even a hearing that they feverishly campaigned to help their fellow House Republicans win on Election Night and transform Kentucky’s political landscape.

Stumbo’s obstructionism provided a unifying force in both raising the level of and providing a common target toward which Republicans in Frankfort could aim their collective good-for-the-citizenry frustration.

It also unified and sharpened the GOP’s spear, readying the party to bolt from the gate, jabbing with job-friendly legislation while using a retro but relevant “it’s the economy, stupid” approach rather than simply being satisfied with some election victory, even one that put the finishing touches on making Stumbo — already a political dinosaur — extinct.

Like Max Euwe, the great 20th century Dutch chess Grandmaster and mathematician, observed: “Whoever sees no other aim in the game than that of giving checkmate to one’s opponent will never become a good chess player.”

Or an effective game-changing majority party, either.

What happened on Election Night is best viewed as an important milestone towards winning future policy battles that ultimately will change Kentucky’s economic trajectory from one of decline and dependency to growth and even greatness.

We must make Kentucky — as Hoover put it — “a state that is more attractive to companies wanting to locate here or companies wanting to expand to create jobs.”

Opposition now will arise primarily in the form of temptations common to politicians, including placing a higher priority on getting reelected than doing the right thing.

Substantive debate that includes testimony from fiscal conservatives who reformed tax policies in other states — particularly ones with whom Kentucky competes for economic-development projects — is the right thing.

Why not invite former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, for example, to come and tell about how he led the economic turnaround in the Hoosier State, all while reforming its tax, pension and education policies?

Temptations to limit tax-code debates to endless discussions about feeding crocodiles rather than draining the swamp in a manner that makes compliance simpler, rates lower and the commonwealth more prosperous must be resisted at all cost.

Such temptations can be easily overcome if House Republicans — especially the 23 new members — will just consider how downright fun it will be to cast votes like ones that free up millions of dollars currently sunk in that swamp by costly prevailing-wage requirements on public projects.

School Planning and Management magazine reports more than $900 million was spent on construction in 2014 — most of it for new schools — by school districts in Region 4, which includes Kentucky.

Tom Shelton, executive director of Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, told a state Senate committee earlier this year that prevailing-wage mandates consume “20 to 30 percent in overall cost for construction.”

Wrap it all up with a Big Blue blow consisting of happy legislators dreaming about unlocking millions of these dollars for new schools, textbooks and opportunities, and we’re on our way to the commonwealth’s best Christmas in at least 95 years.

By Jim Waters

Bluegrass Beacon

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute; Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute; Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns

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