Governor talks new industry for region

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin made a big announcement, cast a grand vision, but also pulled no punches during an exclusive interview with The Mountain Advocate on Tuesday.

“I am working with the White House right now to designate a part of Eastern Kentucky an “Aero Ready” region,” the Governor announced Tuesday. “We are trying to intentionally focus our nation’s defense industry and aerospace industry on Eastern Kentucky and the type of workforce we have there.”  He added, “We are talking with some of the largest companies in the world.” Bevin specifically mentioned Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Air Bus, GE Aviation, and several others that he and his staff are working with now. “Some already have a presence here; some are looking,” he said. The governor noted they will be “especially focusing on Eastern Kentucky.”

“Stay tuned,” he requested. “I look forward to talking more about this with you shortly.”

Bevin also said that so far this year, with six months still to go, his administration has now generated over $7 billion in new investments in Kentucky. That total far surpasses the previous best year ever on record, which was of $5.1 billion. The secret to this success, the Governor claims, is to “pass good policy.” The policies he sites include Right to Work legislation, tort reform, and his initiative to cut regulations. He also points out, “I am a business guy,” which he says helps him relate to business leaders considering a move to the state.

Closely linked to jobs is education, and the Governor voiced strong opinions about why his administration has made so many changes to the education system in the state. He says the goal is to change, improve and “bring competition” into our education system. Bevin also said the “ultimate” measure of success of education in Kentucky is “Can they (our graduates) find jobs? Are they employed and contributing to society?”

The Governor also talked about how important rural acute care hospitals, like Barbourville ARH Hospital, are to the state. “They are the bridge for people between life and death,” said Bevin. Regardless of what happens at the federal level with Medicaid, the governor said it is “my responsibility” to make sure rural hospitals in the state “are incentivized to be there,” and that they have the resources they need to “provide the best healthcare outcomes possible for our people.”

When asked about openness and transparency in state government, the governor had tough words for the state’s Attorney General, saying, “We need to turn out the corruption. Sadly, our state has been a corrupt state.”  He added, “Our Attorney General gets very nervous when I talk about corruption. I find that very interesting, as he is the top law enforcement officer… How many people from his office are now in prison as a result of corruption? We need to clean this state up.”  The Governor also said he is open to reviewing the State’s open meeting and open records laws, and supports further discussion on that topic to determine if the laws need any changes or not.

When asked to look ahead to the special legislative session he is planning to call this fall, Bevin said, “Don’t be worried about taxes going up.” Bevin said he “loathes to raise taxes” and “sticking it to the taxpayer” is not his plan. The Governor did indicate that he hopes with the help of the legislature to implement some of the recommendations that have already been made by multiple “blue ribbon” commissions and studies in the past.

However, in past statements, the governor has noted that the revised tax code cannot be “revenue neutral” and that “some sacred cows will become hamburger.”