(LEX 18) — In a press conference held in the Capitol Annex shortly after Governor Andy Beshear's State of The Commonwealth Address Wednesday night, Republican leaders said they are "ready, willing, and able" to work with the governor's office on efforts to help Western Kentucky communities recover from the deadly tornadoes.
"We know that there are some things that we can do quickly to make an impact as quickly as possible," House Speaker David Osborne (R) said.
Osborne and Senate President Robert Stivers (R) said they have had some conversations with the governor over the last ten days, discussing potential ways they could "infuse cash" into the region. Osborne added that they are still working to determine the best way to deploy money.
During his speech Wednesday night, Governor Beshear said he is working with members of the House and Senate to "fast-track legislation" that would direct $150 million to help impacted communities rebuild, as well as an additional $50 million to help the region's schools.
Stivers suggested that while the General Assembly can address some urgent needs in Western Kentucky, there are still assessments that need to be done to determine whether some projects could be funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or through insurance.
Osborne said the governor made a good speech, but that he is more interested in direct conversations.
"I greatly value the words that we exchange together," he said. "I greatly value the times that we've had to sit down with him and have open conversations about policy."
Stivers added that "actions need to follow words."
"We've been able to have good legitimate discussions," Stivers said. "But those have been too few."
The Republican leaders also appeared skeptical of the governor's characterization of the economy as "booming."
"The fact of the matter is revenues are good," Osborne said. "But does that mean the economy is good?"
Osborne pointed to other economic indicators, like workforce participation, where he said the state needed to improve.
Stivers argued that Kentucky is the beneficiary of the federal government "infusing money into our state," referencing the federal relief dollars passed by Congress during the pandemic. He said the increase in revenue has been "artificially created" by federal dollars.
"There are huge holes in our economy that have got to be addressed before we truly have an economy that is clicking along on all cylinders," Osborne said.
When asked about the current surge of COVID-19, fueled by the rapidly-spreading omicron variant, Stivers and Osborne said they take the pandemic seriously and they encourage people to get vaccinated, but that Kentuckians will have to learn to live with the virus.
"We can't sit back and quarantine and stay in the house and not live," Stivers said. "We've got to get out and move the economy, move the state, and move our education systems forward."