For the first time in two years, Governor Andy Beshear delivered his State of the Commonwealth Address in-person, inside the House Chambers. He reported that Kentucky recorded nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, a record since the pandemic began. Beshear also spoke about natural disaster tragedies that hit the state and economic development triumphs that he said prove that right now is “Kentucky’s time.”
His speech touted a record $11.2 billion in private investments in 2021, which he told legislators would bring 18,000 jobs.
Beshear introduced individuals impacted by devastating ice storms and the deadly western Kentucky tornadoes, including a young girl whose family lost their home to the December 10 storms and a farmer who used his tractor to pull neighbors from their damaged homes.
The governor asked President Joe Biden for a 60-day extension to the federal government’s promise to cover 100% of storm recovery costs. He also said on Wednesday night that he would ask legislators to fast-track $150 million to help communities rebuild, appropriate another $50 million for impacted schools, and provide additional tools to bring and keep jobs in the region.
Governor Beshear hinted about the content of the budget address he will deliver a week from Thursday. “It will invest in essential workers like Kentucky State Police, nurses, and teachers to ensure we cannot only recruit but retain these critical jobs,” he said.
Beshear said the budget would invest in future economic development sites to help communities prepare for potential investments. He also promised to include money for a “world-class airport in Paducah,” raises for state workers, more water and sewer grants, continued expansion of the Mountain Parkway to four lanes, and construction of the I-69 bridge. “It will move us ever close to the announcement that I hope and expect we will make next year that we will construct a Brent Spence companion bridge without tolls,” he added.
House Speaker David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Senate President Robert Stivers (R-Manchester) applauded the governor’s bipartisan tone but said they hope to learn more about his proposals in next week’s budget address because they have had no direct discussions with the Executive Branch.
“The times where we have, over the last two years, sat down in a collaborative manner, we have made strides,” Osborne stated. “ We have stood ready to do that.”
“Actions need to follow words,” Stivers added. “We said this over and over again, we have been able to sit down with the governor we’ve been able to sit down and have good legitimate discussion but those have been too few.”