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Governor Weighs In On Surplus, County Clerks, Chattanooga

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Kentucky’s economic forecast is improving, according to Gov. Steve Beshear. Today, state’s top official announced a decision to funnel $82 million in surplus dollars into Kentucky’s “rainy day fund," bumping the grand total to just over $209 million.

Despite an uneven recovery that has disproportionately benefited the state’s more urban areas, Beshear argued the fresh investment in the rainy day fund should give residents some measure of confidence that the Commonwealth is moving in the right direction.

"How are we able to do this? Because revenues in the fiscal year that just ended June 30 came in at a $165.4 million higher than predicted," he said. "We grew our revenues not by raising taxes. We grew them in the old-fashioned way; we earned it. We earned it by growing our economy."

But any celebration will still have storm clouds hovering over it – in the form of mounting multi-billion dollar shortfalls facing the state’s pension systems. The governor acknowledged that problem will require a sustained effort by the legislature in the coming years.

Chattanooga Shooting

Beshear said Kentucky has been “proactive” in taking steps to keep service members safe from attacks like the recent shooting in Chattanooga that killed four U.S. Marines and a Navy officer.

Asked if the state plans to institute any new safety policies in the wake of the shooting, the governor told reporters Tuesday that he and Adjutant General Edward Tonini feel the current rules provide ample protection for service members. And when it comes to arming those officers...

"Our active guard members, assuming that their commanding officer authorizes it, can already carry weapons. We also have a policy that was put in place back in 2013 that allows our guard that are on active duty in any of our facilities or recruiting stations to carry concealed weapons," the governor said.

Seven states have moved to allow National Guard members to carry arms in the days following the incident in Tennessee and the federal military has beefed up security at recruiting stations and reserve centers.  

Same-Sex Marriage

Faced with calls to carve out a “religious liberty” exception for county clerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Gov. Steve Beshear is sending no signals he plans to change course.

Though the governor has steadfastly avoided discussing his personal views on gay marriage, he did tell reporters Tuesday that elected officials take an oath to uphold the Constitution as interpreted by the Supreme Court without exception.

"If you are at that point to where your personal convictions tell you that you simply cannot fulfill your duties that you were elected to do, then obviously an honorable course to take is to resign and let someone else step in who feels that they can fulfill those duties," Beshear said.

So far three state lawmakers, including Lexington Republican Rep. Stan Lee, have pre-filed bills aimed at shielding the clerks in question from civil and criminal liability.

But the matter is already being hashed out in a U.S. District Court, where a class action lawsuit against Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis is ongoing.

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