Kentucky government shows economy and resilience after tragedies

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) – Heading into a tough election year on Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear touted Kentucky’s record of economic growth and sustainability, claiming the future is “brighter than ever.”

The Democratic governor touted record economic gains during his tenure in his fourth annual State of the Union address and hailed the state’s ability to withstand tornadoes, floods and pandemic tragedies that have repeatedly turned the state’s work into crisis management.

Beshear has pushed lawmakers to put more money into education, raise public school teacher pay and meet the goal of universal access to early childhood education, avoiding the Republican-dominated legislature. – kindergarten.

On the second day of this year’s legislative session, the governor urged lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in a televised address. He has taken executive action to allow Kentuckians with certain debilitating conditions to legally possess medical marijuana, if marijuana is legally purchased in other states.

But he said legislative action is still needed.

“The right treatment of the people … dictates that this session and this General Assembly finally legalize medical privacy,” the governor said.

Beshear, whose position has faced political controversy with lawmakers, has also called for additional funding and other changes to bolster the state’s ailing juvenile justice system.

The governor, fresh from a morning appearance with President Joe Biden to celebrate the promised renovation of the dilapidated Ohio River bridge connecting Kentucky and Cincinnati, began by quoting from the book. He also urged state leaders to put aside partisan differences to achieve common goals in advancing the Bluegrass State.

“As Kentuckians, we share more than we divide,” Beshear said. “We share faith, family and community values. Now if we redouble our efforts, lead with our values ​​and put politics aside, there is nothing we cannot achieve. Our future is brighter than ever.

The speech comes as Beshear prepares for a tough re-election campaign in a state that continues to lean Republican. The governor remained popular as he led the state through a series of tragedies, but attracted a crowd of GOP candidates seeking to unseat him.

Beshear’s efforts to stem that GOP momentum are one of the reasons Kentucky’s 2023 gubernatorial race is being closely watched nationally a year before the next presidential election.

In his speech, the governor recalled the state tragedies that overshadowed his term of office – the COVID-19 pandemic, the tornadoes that devastated parts of western Kentucky and the flood waters that inundated parts of eastern Kentucky.

“Faced with some of the biggest challenges imaginable, Kentuckians showed up for each other,” Beshear said. “The Holy Scriptures tell us to love our neighbors as ourselves. This is exactly what people in the commonwealth do.

The governor pointed to unprecedented economic growth over the past two years, saying it offers “the promise of a better Kentucky.” He said the legislature could provide a boost by making additional investments in education and other priorities.

“This General Assembly has the opportunity to make great strides on each of these issues that we are discussing tonight, and you have the funding to do so,” Beshear said. “If we can find our way to do what’s right for the people of Kentucky, then we will be the generation that changes things for the better — the generation that will usher in a new era of prosperity.”

Then, Republican House Speaker David Osborne avoided reopening the state budget to make sweeping changes during this year’s legislative session.

“I don’t think it’s likely that we’re going to make major changes to the budget document,” Osborne said during an interview with Kentucky Education Television.

The speaker said the current budget made critical investments while providing lawmakers with flexibility to lower the state’s personal income tax rate. Lawmakers are considering a measure to cut the income tax rate by another half percentage point to 4% starting Jan. 1, 2024.

The budget passed last year by the GOP-led Legislature poured money into teacher pensions and infrastructure and boosted the state’s basic funding formula for K-12 schools. Last year, lawmakers refused 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 pay teachers and other school employees higher wages. Republicans say most districts have raised wages.

Osborne signaled late Wednesday that strengthening the state’s juvenile justice system could be an issue where lawmakers find common ground with the governor. Beshear announced a series of changes late last year aimed at addressing security concerns.

Bruce Schreiner, Associated Press

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