The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce released the results of its "New Agenda for Kentucky" initiative on Wednesday.
The initiative, launched last April, was designed to encourage Kentuckians to suggest ways to improve the state, and funnel those ideas into an action agenda that will be presented to Gov. Steve Beshear and other policy officials.
A task force of business executives and entrepreneurs was formed to guide the process of developing the agenda and help solicit ideas from the public through a designated Web site, community meetings, outreach to civic organizations and community groups, and interviews with experts and opinion leaders.
The project generated nearly 400 ideas from contributors across the state, according to the task force's report. The group has selected 100 of the most compelling suggestions to share with the state and its elected leaders. The selections were made based on viability, financial feasibility, the time needed to implement, innovation and vision, and impact, the report said.
Here is a sampling of those ideas:
- To bolster Kentucky farms, promote alternative agriculture by encouraging organic farming, providing incentives for the production of industrial hemp (that cannot be used to produce marijuana), and offering financial incentives for ethanol production.
- Antiquated alcohol sales laws, which are confusing to tourists and sacrifice revenue, should be eliminated and alcohol sales should be permitted statewide in Kentucky.
- The state needs to encourage people to move to Kentucky to keep population levels high enough to compete economically. To do this, it should encourage local communities to develop Web sites that allow to them to hook up to utilities and arrange for other necessary services online.
- To bring more corporate headquarters to Kentucky, the state should offer a wide array of incentives, including full tax abatement for 10 years for all executives who move to Kentucky.
- Actions that are required to prepare Kentucky to compete in the global marketplace include: teaching the metric system in public schools, teaching foreign languages such as Chinese, and comparing Kentucky's economic/educational performance with other countries instead of just other states.
- Life skills classes should be required for all students and should include: character education, parenting skills/responsibilities, personal finance, business education/experience, civic engagement/community service and cooperative jobs to provide workplace experience.
- Establishing an education improvement tax credit for businesses in Kentucky that contribute to public and private schools could help increase funding for schools.
- Kentucky should fully fund higher education in exchange for an agreement from state colleges and universities that they will not raise tuition.
- Kentucky should require contractor accountability for the environment by requiring all potential state contractors to submit a scorecard showing how well they reduce/reuse/recycle; this information should become a factor in the awarding of state contracts.
- To encourage physicians to continue the important practice of providing charity, they should receive a tax deduction for charitable care equal to one-half of the normal Medicare-approved rate for the service provided.
- Kentucky should eliminate the prevailing wage requirement for all public construction projects.
- Kentucky's state and local tax structure should be thoroughly reviewed and changed to make it more "business friendly" by eliminating or reducing taxes such as payroll taxes, net profit taxes, occupational taxes, inventory taxes and vehicle property taxes.
- Kentucky should establish a back-to-school tax-free holiday to give families a break, boost retail business and discourage shoppers from crossing state lines to take advantage of other states' programs.
- Kentucky could reduce the number of abandoned buildings by creating a sliding scale property tax with incremental increases the longer a building is unoccupied (after one or two years).
- To increase transportation options in Kentucky's most populous regions, the state should develop light rail service/public transportation, especially between Lexington and Louisville and in the Bluegrass Region of Central Kentucky.
- Kentucky should prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.