Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, announced on Wednesday he will not seek re-election for Kentucky’s 17th Senate District. His term will conclude in December 2024, following over two decades of service to his district and a decade as Senate Majority Floor Leader.
“I have decided not to seek re-election to the state Senate in 2024,” Thayer said. “The end of my current term next year will mark 22 years in the Senate and 12 as Majority Floor Leader. After conversations with my adult children, close friends, and colleagues, I have concluded this is the right decision.”
“Senator Damon Thayer has brought such conviction and passion to creating conservative legislation in Kentucky for over 22 years,” Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said. “I value and came to rely on the energy he poured into Senate floor activity day after day. Damon shepherded sound policy through the process, creating a business-friendly environment that’s materialized in the job growth we are seeing today. The commonwealth is better because of Damon Thayer, and the Senate will miss him greatly.”
Thayer is the longest-serving Republican Senate Majority Floor Leader in Kentucky history. The 17th Senate District, which includes Grant and Scott Counties and portions of Fayette and Kenton Counties, is within what has become known as Kentucky’s Golden Triangle. It is the fastest-growing economic region in the state. Business investment and job growth in the 17th Senate District and all of Kentucky can be partially attributed to Thayer and the Republican supermajority’s business-friendly and fiscally conservative policies and budgeting since 2017.
“I have accomplished most of the political and policy goals I set out to achieve,” Thayer said. “I am grateful to the residents of the 17th district who granted me the honor of representing them in the Senate, and to my colleagues in the GOP caucus for the privilege of being their Majority Leader.”
Paramount to Thayer’s tenure in the state Senate is the vast policy and budget achievements he has spearheaded and influenced as Senate Majority Floor Leader. Regarding economic growth in Kentucky and the 17th Senate District, these achievements include the passage of right-to-work legislation, repeal of prevailing wage, and comprehensive tax reform. By the end of Thayer’s term in December 2024, income tax reductions championed by him and the GOP supermajority will have left $1.8 billion in the pockets of working Kentucky taxpayers.
Thayer has been the epitome of a “Kentucky Friend of Cities,” being recognized more than any other member of the general assembly for his support of legislation supporting cities and local control at the local level.
Thayer has been a staunch supporter of sports-betting, which was finally passed during the 2023 legislation session. The leading voice for the legislation in the Senate, Thayer was jointly named the recipient of the American Gambling Awards’ Policymaker of the Year Award alongside Rep. Michael Meredith for their instrumental roles in enacting sports betting legislation, House Bill 551. Recent reports indicate tax revenue generated from sports betting will outpace the $23 million the state had anticipated.
Additionally, Thayer has been a stalwart in ensuring the solvency of Kentucky state employees’, teachers’, and the local retirement systems. He was selected as 23rd on the list of the 40 most influential people in the debate to decide the future of U.S. pensions by Institutional Investor for his primary sponsorship of 2013’s Senate Bill 2, which made reforms to the Kentucky Retirement Systems and County Employees Retirement System. Funding in state budgets beyond the statutorily required contribution has proven critical in improving the funding levels of teacher and state employee pensions. Creating a new Tier 3, hybrid cash balance system for new employees, suspending unfunded COLAs until the systems are 100% funded, and addressing pension spiking were key measures in Senate Bill 2 that ensured CERS maintained a positive trajectory since its passage. Thayer also supported House Bill 484, the #FreeCERS bill, which provided an independent board for the local pension system. Both Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 484 were KLC initiatives.
Finally, Thayer has also been a leading advocate for Kentucky’s signature thoroughbred racing, bourbon, and tourism industries, such as the passage of historical horse racing, repeal of the bourbon barrel tax, and securing $75 million for tourism recovery in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thayer found his love for Kentucky within these industries and says he is excited about the opportunities in front of him outside the Senate chamber and his legislative office.
“There are exciting private sector opportunities I wish to pursue that will require more of my time and energy, which I am currently not afforded with the great responsibility that comes with being a member of our citizen legislature,” he added.
Thayer intends to lead his final legislative session with the same resolve he has had since 2003.
“With one year remaining in my term, I intend to pursue the policy goals of the Senate GOP with the vigor and enthusiasm people have come to expect. My focus will be a successful 2024 Legislative Session.”