The Economy of the South Is Just Fine, Y’all

June 27, 2019

Wall Street Journal
Letters to the Editor
June 26, 2019

Far from falling behind, the American South’s economy is just getting revved up (“The South’s Economy Is Falling Behind,” Page One, June 10). In Kentucky we are experiencing historic levels of economic development.

My vision for Kentucky is a simple one: The state will be recognized as the center of engineering and manufacturing excellence in America. We are already well on our way to an economy that is diverse and robust. Since December 2015 we have announced 1,165 new projects, $19.88 billion in investments and 52,882 new full-time jobs. Perhaps most important, we have more people working in Kentucky than ever before, not surprisingly coupled with the lowest unemployment level in our state’s history.

Kentucky is No. 1 among all states on a per capita basis for automobile production. We are second in the nation in aerospace exports. We also produce billions of dollars of pharmaceuticals, automotive parts, resins, synthetic rubber, chemicals, etc. Kentucky has set all-time records for international exports as a state for three consecutive years, with $31.76 billion exported in 2018 alone.

At the same time, we are rapidly improving our workforce. Our per pupil education expenditures are the highest in Kentucky history. Programs like our Work Ready Skills Initiative, our Registered Apprentice Program, our Work Ready Scholarships and our Work Matters Task Force Report represent a multimillion-dollar investment in Kentucky’s current and future workers. These programs, along with public/private partnerships that are training world-class graduates in advanced manufacturing, are in place to ensure that Kentuckians have the skills demanded by job creators for 2019 and well into the future.

Gov. Matt Bevin

Frankfort, Ky.

The article argues that relatively low taxes and right-to-work laws are to blame for the South’s “poverty” by damping the power of unions, underfunding education and leaving the South unprepared for globalization. However, right-to-work laws are proven to have an opposite effect. In fact, right-to-work states see increased economic growth, higher long-term wage growth and increased manufacturing employment than forced-union states.

On education, the fact that Southern states spend less per pupil than other regions doesn’t mean the South is underinvesting in education; higher spending levels don’t equate to better educational outcomes. Meanwhile, five of the top 10 public universities are Southern: University of Virginia, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Georgia Tech, University of Florida and the College of William & Mary.

The South is a vibrant, economically diverse region serving as the renaissance of American manufacturing. Boeing, Toyota, BMW, Honda, Mercedes and General Electric all have opened factories in the South in recent years. It is precisely because of low taxes and protected right-to-work laws that companies formerly located in the Northeast have flown south. The South’s economy isn’t falling behind. It’s just getting started.

Skip Estes

Jonathan Williams

American Legislative

Exchange Council

Arlington, Va.

In Florida, we invested in education while keeping taxes low. In the four years before I took office, Florida lost more than 800,000 jobs and raised taxes by $2 billion. But during the eight years I was governor, we paid off more than one-third of our state debt and cut taxes by more than $10 billion while making record investments in education, transportation and the environment. Manufacturing jobs also came back. Nearly 13,000 manufacturing jobs were created in Florida last year alone.

There is no reason our neighbors in the South can’t replicate our model. If we cut taxes, cut government waste, cut regulations and allow the American free-market ethos to thrive, the results will come. States that do this will create economies that bring more and more opportunity to families. States that do this will have the same success story as Florida.

Sen. Rick Scott (R., Fla.)

Naples, Fla.