In his first State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky’s future depends on leaving divisive politics in the past and focusing on providing opportunity for every Kentucky family.
Gov. Beshear said the transformational and positive change Kentucky families count on occurs when we break the cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction, and obtain a good-paying career, affordable health care and a quality education.
From supporting our neighbors, to honoring Kentuckians who serve in the military, Gov. Beshear called on all of us to think about the famous words of Thurgood Marshall – “None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody … bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”
From family, teachers, mentors and friends, Gov. Beshear, in referencing his Kentucky roots, said he has seen firsthand what lifting up the boots of even one generation can do for every generation that comes after.
“That is the promise of our Commonwealth. That by breaking one cycle of poverty, by providing one person a high school or college degree they never dreamed they can achieve, we can forever – and for the better – change the trajectory of our people,” said Gov. Beshear. “Today thousands of Kentucky children and adults need us to realize this promise. They need us to help pick up their boots.”
From health care, education and economic opportunity Beshear said, “Right here and right now, we have a can’t-miss opportunity to make major, widespread progress. So we have to take on the big challenges, not do what is politically safe.”
Beshear pointed to the actions of his first month in office: he rescinded the Medicaid waiver that would have kicked 100,000 people off of their health care coverage; stopped more than $8 billion in managed care contracts, rushed through just days before he took office; began waiving fees for those who cannot afford to take the GED; built a diverse cabinet and team; and restored voting rights for 140,000 Kentuckians who committed nonviolent felonies.
“We’re making so much progress already and I will bring this same energy and dedication each and every day of my term,” he said.
Gov. Beshear called on lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment automatically restoring voting rights to nonviolent offenders who have completed their sentences.
He also called for:
- Passing a law to ensure no one can lose health care coverage because of a preexisting condition,
- Fully funding pension obligations,
- Passage of bipartisan proposal curbing the cost of insulin,
- Ending surprise medical bills that can financially devastate families,
- Defeating pharmaceutical companies and require every dollar from these companies go towards ending the opioid epidemic,
- Criminal justice reform to end the state’s high incarceration rate that hurts our budget and our communities.
He emphasized his commitment to speeding up the Mountain Parkway project in Eastern Kentucky and building the I-69 bridge to open up Western Kentucky.
Gov. Beshear also demanded equal pay for women, ensuring every area of the state has high-speed internet and transforming Kentucky to a leader in agriculture technology.
Gov. Beshear reiterated his unwavering support for public education and said his “education first budget” would include a $2,000 raise for teachers.
“These teachers deserve a raise. They are on the front lines of every problem we face as a commonwealth, from family-member addiction, to hunger, to the need for better jobs,” Gov. Beshear said. “… We’ve figured out how to give tax incentives to corporations—so I know we can figure out how to pay a living wage to the men and women, who get up at the crack of dawn every morning to go open their classrooms, stay up late grading papers and give everything they can so our Kentucky children have every opportunity.”
He also outlines priorities for ending historic cuts to universities and community colleges.
He said he supports the sports betting bill filed by Rep. Adam Koenig, but called on lawmakers to expand gaming in the state so $500 million in revenue did not continue to leave into neighboring states, and instead “use that money for our needs.”
“All of our neighboring states – most all of them Republican led – have embraced expanded gaming, while we are being left behind,” Gov. Beshear said.
Gov. Beshear said he would continue to remain focused on ‘WHERE’ the state is going and the Team Kentucky agenda, which is focused on creating good-wages, protecting health care, transforming education, protecting retirement and setting a good example in Frankfort.
Gov. Beshear concluded his remarks by focusing on the power and the responsibility of state leaders to break the cycle of poverty, addiction and neglect by working together.
“It is how we move forward. I know we have more in common than what divides us. I know that we can do what are entrusted here to do: deliver results for Kentuckians,” said Gov. Beshear.