Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday that companies have promised to invest $5.8 billion in Kentucky so far this year, breaking a previous yearly record of $5.1 billion.

The governor credited the state’s “right-to-work” law for the commitments. The policy makes union dues optional, and supporters say it makes the state more attractive to companies looking to move to or relocate in the state.

“The decisions made in the legislature matter,” Bevin said. “And the net result of this is a sense of enthusiasm in the business community for what’s happening in Kentucky like it has never happened before.”

Kentucky became the 27th state with a right-to-work law earlier this year, after Republicans gained control of the legislature and governor’s office for the first time in state history.

In February, Amazon announced it planned to invest $1.5 billion for a hub in Hebron and create 2,700 jobs in Northern Kentucky. Braidy Industries promised last month that it would invest $1.3 billion in an aluminum mill in Northeastern Kentucky.

Bevin said the announced investments would be realized over the coming years.

“All these things have at least a year time horizon on them,” Bevin said.

Democrats were quick to criticize the announcement. Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Sannie Overly called it a “sham.”

“Gov. Bevin is telling you that Kentucky has broken a record, but he’s basing that on announced estimates that have not happened yet, and may never happen,” said Overly, who is also a state representative from Paris. “In fact, Bevin’s total is an accumulation of overestimates that result in one giant, inflated amount that is based more on speculation than reality.”

Bevin’s announcement came the day after two Kentucky union groups announced they were suing to try and block the new right-to-work law. The governor criticized the challenge, saying the unions were trying to “hurt working-class people.”

“If you want people to actually work on behalf of working-class people, get out of the way,” Bevin said. “And stop being political. And stop doing this to try to bolster your ability to get reelected to a job where you’re paid well and the people who pay their dues to pay you well are not.”

During the announcement, Bevin also announced that he was “100 percent” sure he would call a special legislative session to deal with tax reform and pension issues.

Last month, the state budget director predicted Kentucky would have a $113 million shortfall at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.