In a single day during the first week of the legislative session — not to speak of the entire week itself — Bowling Green Rep. Jim DeCesare’s Economic Development and Workforce Investment Committee did more to bring meaningful growth to Kentucky than the former Democratically controlled House did in 95 years.
While labor-union representatives filled the hallway outside Room 171 at the Capitol Annex with chants of “suits in there, boots in there,” committee members – meeting for the first time under the new GOP banner flying high in Frankfort after being folded up for nearly a century – removed serious economic barriers to making Kentucky’s economy great again by fast-tracking bills that will implement right-to-work protections for employees and remove expensive prevailing-wage mandates on public projects.
The right-to-work legislation was one of seven bills — three of which involved important labor reforms — passed in the historic Saturday session held later that same week. Gov. Matt Bevin’s signature soon thereafter made Kentucky the 27th right-to-work state in America.
DeCesare handled his first meeting as committee chairman masterfully, allowing full debate from both sides while insisting on civility and a respectful tone.
“We are doing things a different way,” newly anointed House Speaker Jeff Hoover told the committee.
“Different” is an understatement.
It’s been exasperating for years to watch politicians eat up precious taxpayers’ resources in Frankfort funding a January coma in which nothing beyond filing awkward, meaningless bills got done before Groundhog Day rolled around.
Actually producing? Unheard of.
And, during the first week? Has it ever happened?
The first week of this year’s legislative session was like walking into a bright, sunny day after being stuck for nearly a century in a room darkened by the pessimism and sheer obstructionism of the past and failed ruling elite.
The initial “Whoa! That’s bright!” turned into a “Wow, what an awesome day!” which led to “What an awesome week!” after it began to sink in just how pivotal the beginning of this year’s General Assembly session would be in Kentucky’s history.
With passage of right-to-work, Kentuckians can expect solid economic improvement.
Compare what happened in West Virginia, which, like Kentucky, dragged its heels on right-to-work for years until passing it last year, to what happened in Indiana and Michigan.
Vincent Vernuccio of the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy found:
- Average wages in both Indiana and Michigan increased after right-to-work laws were passed.
- Since Indiana became a right-to-work state in 2012, its average wage rose faster than West Virginia’s.
- Between 2012 – when Michigan passed its right-to-work law – and mid-2015, incomes in the Great Lakes State rose more than 9 percent, which was faster than both West Virginia and the national average.
- Between 2012 and 2014, average hourly wages rose by 56 cents to $19.94 in Indiana, 56 cents to $21.70 in Michigan but only 37 cents to $18.21 in West Virginia.
Vernuccio also reports that when cost-of-living is taken into consideration and “you look at what people can actually buy with their money, workers in right-to-work states have 4.1 percent higher incomes than workers in non-right-to-work states.”
But if you doubt those state-to-state comparisons, consider what’s happened right here in Kentucky.
Since passing the nation’s first local right-to-work ordinance, Warren County has landed more than $1 billion in capital investment from companies who’ve signed to expand or relocate in southcentral Kentucky.
Per Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, there currently are 55,000 available job openings today in that one county.
Plus, Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon says he anticipates another 12,000 job prospects in the very near future.
If such growth can occur in a single county in southcentral Kentucky, imagine what will happen across the Bluegrass State with a right-to-work policy that attracts business and protects individual workers from being forced to pay union dues.
All kinds of jobs are coming to Kentucky. Some require suits; some boots.
Doesn’t Kentucky need more of both?
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @bipps on Twitter.