Kentucky governor touts economy, resilience after tragedies

Posted at 10:13 PM, Jan 04, 2023

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear delivered his fourth annual State of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday night, saying "the state of the Commonwealth is still strong, and our future is bright."

LEX 18's Karolina Buczek live-tweeted from the address:

Throughout the speech, Beshear touted a record of economic development and resilience. He spoke about record economic gains during his tenure and highlighted the state’s ability to overcome the tragedies of tornadoes, flooding, and a global pandemic.

He continuously emphasized a "bright future" for the state.

“In the Book of Psalms, we’re told: ‘Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.’ The joy of that morning – that promise of a better Kentucky – means that our children and grandchildren never have to leave this state to pursue their dreams, because no matter how big they dream, they can chase their dreams right here. A tomorrow where people don’t move from our state, but to it. Where people and businesses choose Kentucky,” said Beshear.

“This promise of a better future has never been brighter, as our commonwealth has emerged from the pandemic as a national economic leader," he added. "Every day, we are winning. With company after company picking us - picking Kentucky.“

After the speech, Senate President Robert Stivers indicated the governor took too much credit for Kentucky's success.

“Did he say a lot of good things out there? Yeah," said Stivers. "But I think if the sun rose today, he was trying to take credit for it."

Beshear also used his speech to urge lawmakers to pump more money into education, raise pay for public school teachers and achieve his goal of universal access to pre-kindergarten learning.

The governor also used the statewide television address to push lawmakers to legalize sports betting and access to medical marijuana. He already took executive action to allow Kentuckians with certain debilitating conditions to legally possess medical marijuana, provided the cannabis is purchased legally in other states.

But he said legislative action is still needed.

“Treating people right ... dictates that this session and that this General Assembly finally legalize medical cannabis,” the governor said.

The governor, fresh off a morning appearance with President Joe Biden to mark the promised makeover of a dilapidated Ohio River bridge linking Kentucky and Cincinnati, punctuated his remarks by citing Scripture. He also called on state leaders to put aside partisan differences to pursue common goals in moving the Bluegrass State forward.

“As Kentuckians, we share more than divides us,” Beshear said. “We share the values of faith, of family and of community. And if we double down right now, if we lead with our values, and we push politics aside, there is nothing that we cannot achieve. Our future is brighter than it has ever been.”

He said the legislature can continue the momentum by making additional investments in education and other priorities.

“This General Assembly has the opportunity to make great progress on each of these issues we’ve discussed tonight, and you have the funding to do it,” Beshear said. “If we can just find our way to do what is right for the people of Kentucky, then we will be the generation that changes everything for the better — the generation that ushers in a new era of prosperity.”

Afterward, Republican House Speaker David Osborne sounded reluctant to reopen the state’s budget to make sweeping changes during this year’s legislative session.

“I think it’s unlikely we’re going to make wholesale changes in any budget document,” Osborne said during an interview on Kentucky Educational Television.

The speaker said the current budget made crucial investments while providing lawmakers the flexibility to reduce the state’s individual income tax rate. Lawmakers are considering a measure aimed at cutting the income tax rate by another half-percentage point to 4%, effective Jan. 1, 2024.

The budget the GOP-led legislature passed last year poured money into teacher pensions and infrastructure and increased the state’s main funding formula for K-12 schools. Lawmakers declined last year to fund pre-K for every 4-year-old in Kentucky. And they left it up to school districts to decide whether to use additional state funding to provide higher pay to teachers and other school staff. Most districts awarded pay raises, Republicans say.