Thursday, June 26, 2003

Northern Kentucky eye-opener

Legislative field trip

Northern Kentuckians who wonder if Frankfort pays attention to them should be reassured after events of last week.

More than 90 Kentucky legislators (that's two-thirds of them) came to the area to conduct six legislative committee meetings, visit sites and listen to local officials make their pitch on programs, projects and needs critical to the region's future. In off hours, the visitors enjoyed a river cruise, a Reds game and visits to Newport on the Levee and Hofbrauhaus. The event was a masterful effort by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and the area's legislative caucus. It is unprecedented for so many legislative committee meetings to take place in one community outside of Frankfort.

It provided a captive audience to discuss everything from Medicaid and childcare to education funding and a regional farmers' market in this region.

Kentucky's powerful Appropriations and Revenue Committee heard chamber president Gary Toebben outline Northern Kentucky's funding needs for priority capital projects, education and local economic development. The priority projects for state aid include a 6,500-seat events center at NKU; Covington West, a 15-acre mixed-use development along the floodwall near I-75/I-71; and a museum at Big Bone Lick State Park.

It's hard for Kentucky's General Assembly to ignore Northern Kentucky's growing role as a provider of jobs and taxes. When it does well economically, it helps the rest of the state because by being a "donor" region, contributing more per capita in taxes and other revenue than it gets back. But, as local officials reminded the visiting legislators, it needs state help in many cases to make it happen.

This legislative field trip was an eye-opener for many Kentucky lawmakers. Seeing, and hearing, first-hand what is happening in Northern Kentucky will make the region that much harder to ignore when they reconvene in Frankfort.

This meeting was a plus for the entire area. Our Ohio legislators should take a lesson from their Kentucky counterparts and invite the folks in Columbus to come see what is going on in Greater Cincinnati.

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