Beshear delivers State of Commonwealth address

Published 10:00 am Thursday, January 4, 2024

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Gov. Andy Beshear delivered his fifth State of the Commonwealth address and first of his second term before a joint session of the Kentucky House and Senate on Wednesday evening at the State Capitol.

“Tonight, I’m proud to report that thanks to the strength of our people and our red-hot economy, the state of our commonwealth is stronger than it has ever been,” he said. “Over the past four years, we have gotten through so many hard times together. And now, we are getting to the good times together.

“We have arrived here by leading with kindness, compassion and empathy for one another. That is what my faith teaches me – to love my neighbor as myself.  It is that Golden Rule and the parable of the Good Samaritan that have guided and should guide us.”

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Beshear expressed his appreciation for the work of lawmakers for economic development successes.

“I want to thank the General Assembly for coming together to pass legislation needed to secure major projects like AESC’s $2 billion, 2,000-job EV gigafactory in Bowling Green,” he said. “That’s another project that shows we are on a roll, but also highlights the site preparation, the work that it takes to lead the country in speed-to-market and to secure these wins. You, the General Assembly, recognized this work and invested in the last budget session, providing $200 million for site development across the commonwealth, as well as a closing fund to keep us competitive. It is paying off.”

The governor noted that while there has been a lot of recovery from the 2021 tornado outbreak in western Kentucky and the July 2022 flooding in the east, more aid is needed.  “In my budget proposal, I am adding $75 million to the Eastern Kentucky SAFE Fund to continue our rebuilding efforts and adding another $10 million from the General Fund to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund.”

He also repeated his request for lawmakers to fund 11% pay raises for all public-school employees, and pointed to neighboring states that have already done that or are working on it.

“The Republican governor of Tennessee signed a bill last year to provide their teachers the largest pay raise in their state’s history, and Indiana is looking to do the same. Folks, that is our competition – both to the north and to the south.”

He also requested the General Assembly fully fund student transportation and universal pre-K. However, legislative leaders have already said there is no sentiment in their chambers to do that.

Beshear also asked for $300 million to speed up the Mountain Parkway expansion and the I-69 Ohio River Crossing, plus $50 million for local bridge repair.

Fully funding Medicaid, including the Medicaid expansion, and $35 million for more body armor for law enforcement, were other parts of his request.

He concluded his address by saying, “Scripture reminds us, ‘Our God is merciful and tender. He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us.’  We’re walking into that bright dawn, and we’re doing it together.  Remember: Life is short, so do good things and be kind to each other.”