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Nisia Thornton: Facts are stubborn things — a response to Bevin’s assessment of KY economy

Facts are stubborn things.

A former high school teacher, a current nurse educator, and a lifelong avid reader, researcher and writer, I daily deal with facts and the vision they fuel. And as a lifelong Kentuckian, I really do believe that “united we stand, divided we fall.”

That’s why I grieve for my state, because more and more of us are being left behind by GOP policies.

KCEP director Jason Bailey’s December 10, 2018 report “Kentucky’s economic performance falls short of claims based on corporate announcements” sets forth many facts. Governor Bevin’s Communications Director, Elizabeth G Kuhn railed against the report as “rantings.” She refutes no fact and imagines we fear the truth. Did Kuhn read Bailey’s report? Has she studied the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Economy at a Glance” for Kentucky?

Accurate indicators of the state of the economy and measurements of policy impact on jobs would show us the facts, but the impact of right-to-work laws on union membership, wages, and collective bargaining agreements are yet to be accurately determined.

Bevin and the Cabinet for Economic Development prematurely judge Kentucky’s right-to-work (RTW) law as boosting the economy. This oversimplification avoids identifying benchmarks for Kentucky’s performance. The real drivers of economic growth are also absent from Bevin’s announcements of “projected new investments.”

Fact: Corporations as large as Ford and Toyota do not decide to invest millions or billions within 3 weeks, or 3 months, or 3 years. No correlation exists between the 2017 RTW law signed by Gov. Bevin and the “projected” economic boom he declares.

Fact: Of the “new” investors, 82% were in fact, companies operating in Kentucky prior to 2017.

Fact: “Projected” investments are not actual investments, just as the “announcements” are only plans to make capital investments sometime in the future. How effective are the 361 million dollar corporate tax breaks intended to lure business to the state? Neither the Governor nor Cabinet provided this information. Picture 361 million invested in education, transportation, infrastructure, healthcare access, pensions, Medicaid, human services, green energy – the life of our communities.

How about job creation? – The Cabinet for Economic Development report has identified none. 43.5 mil is for job retention, not creation. Toyota is permitted to eliminate 788 jobs but will still qualify for tax breaks. How many Kentuckians have lost jobs? How many of our neighbors, how many of our fellow citizens? The fact-averse proponents of RTW would find in the Federal Worker Adjustment Retraining Notification filings at least 3,721 Kentucky jobs were eliminated in 2018.

Fact: Every job eliminated offsets every job created, but since 2016, the Cabinet for Economic Development has not reported on job losses due to facility closing. The Cabinet also fails to mention the types of “prospective” new jobs or the wages for those positions.

Fact: January 2019 marks ten years the Cabinet’s main tax subsidy, the Kentucky Business Investment (KBI) program standard for employee compensation has maintained the minimum hourly wage at $7.25. Over half of the 50 states already provide a higher wage; the Bevin government should prepare for a grassroots swell – see the “Fight for 15” movement.

Show us facts, not fantasies. We the people of Kentucky deserve this.

Nisia Thornton RN MEd MSN can be reached at nisia.thornton@gmail.com .

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