Western Kentucky Republicans gathered at Murray State University’s Curris Center this weekend for the Calloway County GOP’s Lincoln-Reagan Dinner, themed around the prospect of flipping control of the Kentucky House of Representatives to Republican control.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was the keynote speaker at the event, which also drew appearances from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell - who Perry formally endorsed - and his primary opponent Matt Bevin.
Perry said that a Republican monopoly in Frankfort could lead to passing Texas-style legislation like eliminating the state individual income tax and making Kentucky a right-to-work state.
“The solution to the issues that challenge us as a nation are not going to come from Washington D.C.,” Perry said. “They’re going to come from the states - the 50 laboratories of innovation. And it can start in Kentucky, but you have to have six more Republicans in the House of Representatives.”
The former presidential candidate said a Republican majority in the House would allow the commonwealth to catch up in job creation with states like Texas and Tennessee.
“You think [Tennessee Gov.] Bill Haslam is not sitting down there kind of looking up here, going ‘Which one of those businesses am I going to come get this next time?’,” Perry said. “Because he’s a right-to-work state. He doesn’t have a personal income tax. You’ve got to get rid of those if you’re going to be competitive.”
Since February 2010, private sector job growth has increased 6 percent in Kentucky, according to a report released earlier this year by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee. Texas and Tennessee have increased job growth by 12.6 and 8.9 percent respectively in that timeframe.
Just last week, a Democrat-controlled Kentucky House panel voted down a right-to-work bill 15-4.
The event’s other high-profile speakers – McConnell, U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture James Comer – agreed with Perry that Kentucky’s state laws should be more like the Lone Star State’s.
Comer, tipped by many as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2015, used the Texas parallels to further hint at a possible run for governor.
“Gov. Perry and I were talking and he said that he had some great experience during his time as Commissioner of Agriculture in Texas and it was just a huge government agency and they do a lot of things and you learn a lot about state government,” Comer said. “It really prepared him for the next level. And I thought, ‘They do things right in Texas. They think the right way in Texas.’”