In Address, Beshear Calls for Education Funds, Expanded Gaming, Civility

Governor Andy Beshear called for expanded gaming, more civility and cooperation, and used an acronym for his vision in his first State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday night in Frankfort.

"What I am focused on is the WHERE we are going," Beshear said. "It’s a simple acronym that encompasses our Team Kentucky agenda. W is for Wages. For far too many families the bills are going up while incomes are stagnant. H is for Health care. We can’t sit back while prescription drug prices soar and access to health care remains under attack. E is for Education. Public education has the power to transform lives. It will be prioritized under my administration. R is for Retirement. A pension is a promise and should be treated as such. We owe so much to our educators, social workers, first responders and public servants. The last E is for Example. I am committed to changing the tone in Frankfort because we have so much more in common than what divides us."

Beshear, a Democrat who previously served four years as attorney general before unseating Republican Matt Bevin last November, also called for expanded gaming options in Kentucky.

"A commitment to the future also requires that we create new revenue to meet the growing needs of our state," the governor said. "Right now we are watching more than $500 million dollars in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois. It’s time to stop that flow. To use that money for our needs."

He called out a teacher shortage in the state and said that his proposed budget that the General Assembly will consider in the current legislative session will include a call for more funding for higher education.

"A commitment to breaking cycles of poverty must also include higher education. In this state, we need more of every option," Beshear said. "More graduates with a four-year college degree and more workers with technical degrees and certifications for skilled trades.To do that, we must end our historic cuts to our universities and community colleges. So stay tuned, because the education first budget that I am constructing will be designed to provide us the opportunity to truly change lives moving forward. And it will embrace higher education."

Beshear is the lone Democrat to hold statewide office currently and his address on Tuesday night was before a Republican-dominated legislature. To that end, he called for cooperation.

“We, in this capital and around Kentucky, are responsible for using the power and privilege of office to do right by Kentuckians, to focus our energy not on partisan squabbles but on working together to figure out how to better the commonwealth we all love so dearly,” Gov. Beshear said. “And let me be clear: every moment we focus on partisanship, every moment we focus on national divisions, we fail to address the reality before us.”

State Senator Damon Thayer, a Republican from Georgetown whose district includes Grant and southern Kenton counties in addition to Scott, and who serves as Senate Majority Floor Leader, did not buy the call.

"I appreciate his tone as the only mandate he has is to be nice. Yet, every major action he has taken is partisan. He says one thing, and does another. It’s right out of the Democrat playbook," Thayer tweeted.

The governor made no specific references to Northern Kentucky. His full remarks can be found here.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher