Future Prescriptions For Kentucky

Dec 18, 2019 at 10:54 am
Father’s Day

It will be difficult for 2020 to top 2019: Gov. Matt Bevin was sent packing by Kentucky voters, and for the first time in nearly four years I will be able to follow the Kentucky governor on Twitter.

I also won my first-ever golf club championship. For a lifelong golfer, this is a career-defining achievement akin to the old guy reliving his high school basketball glory years (meaningless to all others, but stories to tell for a lifetime).

Oh, and I became a father (now I will have someone who will listen to stories of my 2019 club championship).

So, I will keep my magic lamp wishes for 2020 to myself and share the more modest, realistic hopes for our city and state.

First, I hope that Gov. Andy Beshear uses his budget and board-appointment powers to rescue and transform Kentucky higher education. The state universities and technical college system have struggled to regain their financial footing since the Great Recession, and the burden has been shifted largely to students in the form of annual tuition hikes.

Still, I see opportunities.

Beshear should announce that he will freeze college tuition rates for as long as he is governor. UofL hiked tuition and fees by 2.5% this year, which The Courier Journal reported marks a nearly $4,000 increase over tuition from a decade ago.

Then, Kentucky schools should endeavor to be the national, even global leader, in something — anything — in addition to basketball.

This may mean reviving the Bucks for Brains initiative, which ended in 2006. A post-mortem of B4B revealed that the 10-year, $350 million investment by the state resulted in a $1 billion increase in endowment assets at UK and UofL. B4B also attracted and funded elite faculty, who were responsible for 30% of the state’s new patent applications and 36% of Kentucky’s start-up companies.

As an agricultural state, Kentucky schools should reflect that strength and become leaders in research, development and future of agriculture — including incorporating artificial intelligence. Solving some of the most pressing issues facing the world, including the climate crisis and food supplies for a growing population, could largely hinge on modernizing farming.

The state cannot cut its way out of the hole it’s in. Instead, we must depend on growing the state’s industry and population base. Attracting students to a world-class public education system may be the answer.

My second hope is that Beshear calls an end to the so-called War on Louisville.

Frankfort needs to set Louisville free from its conservative, small government vise — after all, honest, small-government conservatives should be in favor of more local autonomy and control. Louisville needs to be allowed to pursue major policies that may not be popular with or best for the rest of the state.

Two come to mind: gun control and an optional tax.

Gun control is truly common sense policy: Louisville should have the right to create rules and regulations for the sale and exchange of firearms and ammunition within the city limits, as well as regulate certain places where they are not allowed.

This is critical for Louisville but may not apply to the rest of the state. I wrote almost two years ago about this very issue: The state shouldn’t force rural rules on a city it can’t comprehend.

The same goes for an optional sales tax, or other forms of raising revenues for special projects. It’s ironic that Louisville — the economic engine of the state — is ultimately handcuffed economically by elected officials from around the state who survive off of Louisville’s economy. The city has too many financial needs (and unrealized potential) for anti-tax Republicans from around the state to stand in the way of Louisville independence.

I hope Gov. Beshear can broker a truce.

Finally, I hope that a Democrat wins the U.S. Senate Democratic primary to take on Mitch McConnell. I’m not going to delude myself into thinking Mitch can lose. However, I don’t want to see a pro-Trump Amy McGrath anointed, only to give Mitch a free pass to re-election. Other contenders, in particular, Democrats who will stand up for democratic values — Charles Booker and Mike Broihier, for instance — need to pull McGrath back to reality... or just go ahead and win the nomination.

I won’t get greedy and will save my grandest wishes for the magic lamp... although Bevin being investigated by the feds for issuing sketchy pardons would be excellent.

For 2020, the sun is definitely shining brighter on my Old Kentucky Home with a new governor, and I have hope for our future.