A Legislative Perspective on the Kentucky General Assembly with State Representative Rick Rand
FRANKFORT – As states look for ways to improve their quality of life, the first thing they usually do is see how well they stack up with the rest of the country.
An annual publication known as “State Rankings” makes that relatively easy by bringing together more than 500 comparisons from a variety of sources. While some of the information can be dated – the most recent edition uses 2009 data in some cases – this resource nonetheless does a good job of capturing each state’s progress in such areas as agriculture, education, crime reduction and the economy.
In many ways, Kentucky is doing quite well. We are tied for fourth with Oklahoma in the number of farms, for example, and we saw an 8.2 percent increase in per-acre value of farmland from 2012 to 2013, a growth rate three times higher than Tennessee’s.
In 2013, our farms placed among the top 18 states in six commodities: poultry, corn, soybeans, wheat, cattle and hogs. Although not part of the publication’s rankings, we are also among the nation’s leaders in tobacco and horses.
Another area where the commonwealth has out-performed most states is the crime rate. Only a handful saw a steeper decline between 2011 – when we enacted far-reaching reforms of our criminal justice system – and 2012, and the news was even better when just focusing on the reduction in violent crimes.
Kentucky also is seeing success in other areas. Our percentage of identity-theft complaints and the arrest rate of juveniles in Kentucky are half of the national average, and our combined state and local spending on corrections also trailed most other states in 2011.
While the recession was difficult for most of the country, Kentucky beat most states by increasing our gross domestic product by 2.2 percent between 2008 and 2012, which is well above the zero growth the United States experienced as a whole. Kentucky’s housing prices also went up during that time while half of the states saw the value of their homes drop.
In other economic comparisons, we have five Fortune 500 companies based here – 22 states have three or less – and our factory workers put in a longer week than their counterparts in 45 other states.
When it comes to education, Kentucky dedicates a little more than a third of its state and local government budgets to this category, which is above the national average. We also are doing better than 35 other states by having a greater percentage of young adults enrolled in a postsecondary school.
Our worst area, unfortunately, centers on our collective health. We lose loved ones more to cancer, heart disease and accidents than most states, and we are also among the bottom 10 states in obesity. We led the nation in smoking in 2012, but had one of the country’s lowest rates of alcohol consumption.
Several of the categories in “State Rankings” are beyond our control but are interesting nonetheless. Consider that our average daily temperature of 56 degrees makes us the 17th warmest state, but we’re tied for 36th in the number of sunny days.
In 2012, an especially tough year for us weather-wise, we ranked fifth in the number of fatalities caused by storms, and the $165 million we had in damages that year exceeded costs in both Florida and California.
In other rankings, we lead most states in both our marriage and divorce rates; the good quality of our highways; and our overall energy consumption, which is no surprise given our manufacturing base.
Individually, these statistics are just a small sample, but taken together, they help illustrate where we are doing well and where there is room for improvement.
If you would like to let me know your thoughts about how we can build on this progress, or if you have any questions regarding the legislative session that begins this week, my address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator, call toll-free at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.