Whatever plans you may have for November 5, I hope they include a visit to your polling place to cast your ballot in this year's election. Every election is important, but this one is particularly critical as we will be voting for our Governor and Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Auditor of Public Accounts, Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture. These offices represent the executive branch of state government, which I work with a great deal as your State Representative.
However, I am not writing this column to discuss the offices we vote for on November 5. I already did that several weeks ago. Instead, I want to open a discussion on what we must do in the weeks and months following this election. Our state stands at the threshold of an era of incredible opportunity. Honestly, I think it is the most exciting time to be a Kentuckian in more than a century and I know that we all want to take advantage of this. If you want a "by the numbers" count, consider this: we have the lowest state unemployment rate in history, record economic investment from in and out-of-state companies, more open jobs than available workforce. Tourism is growing and people are choosing to come to Kentucky to live, work and play. Together, this is indisputable evidence that good public policy pays off for all Kentuckians.
So, how do we take advantage of these opportunities and build on what we have already accomplished? The answer is simple, put Kentucky first. Over the past few weeks, political candidates have traded jabs and even a few personal insults. But, frankly, that is politics. Ideally, candidates for any office are running because they want the best for the people they serve. Generally, what differs between them is how they define "the best." So, what happens when the election is over, the ballots are counted and the winner is announced? Do we continue to disagree but work together when we can or instead do we launch personal attacks and distract from the real issues our state faces? I hope we can move forward and remember that common courtesy has accomplished greater things than bitterness and hostility.
When the General Assembly convenes on January 7, the biggest issue on our agenda will be our state budget. We will determine what is funded, and how we fund it. The current budget allocates $33.7 billion, not including transportation funding, between last and this fiscal year. Over the past few months, interim committees have heard testimony from state agencies and programs funded by the budget. I can tell you with confidence that not one single entity has come to us saying they need less money. In fact, despite our economic growth, we still face financial struggles and will until we can deal with the financial commitments made by previous state leaders, not the least of which is the $40 billion in unfunded public pension liabilities. We will also set the course for spending on roads and infrastructure, a big issue for not only public safety but also economic development and quality of life.
There are many other important issues on our horizon, and they are all going to require that we work together for the benefit of our people. So once again, when the last campaign sign tossed in the trash, let us invest our energy and resources in building a brighter future together.
As always, I can be reached at home anytime or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. You can also contact me via e-mail at Chris.Freeland@lrc.ky.gov. You can also keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov. You can also follow me on Facebook page, Chris Freeland 6th District State Representative.