Kentucky's fortunes are looking up, but the governor's State of the Commonwealth address highlighted differing opinions on why
Gov. Andy Beshear delivered an optimistic State of the Commonwealth address Wednesday, saying the state is ready to turn the corner after a series of crises. But Republican leaders say the governor carved out too much credit for his administration.
The address to a joint session of the Kentucky House and Senate came in two parts – a look back at the daunting challenges the state has faced from the pandemic to unprecedented natural disasters, followed by an enthusiastic preview of what Beshear described as the potential to usher in a “new era of prosperity.”
To that end, the governor had this to report.
"With the books closed on 2022, I can announce we've now secured the best two-year period for economic growth in state history."Gov. Andy Beshear
It’s an announcement Republican leaders acknowledged contains good news for Kentucky, but the long list of economic wins recited by Beshear – from economic development projects to budget surpluses – rankled House Speaker David Osborne. What was missing, the Republican said, was any credit for the policies implemented by his party’s majorities.
"Those are pro-business policies that we've passed over the last six years," Osborne told reporters. "And to my recollection, there's not a single one of those policies that (Beshear) didn't sue us for or veto... as governor. So I struggle a little bit with the concept that he's taking credit for economic success when he's vetoed every one of those bills."
While Beshear’s speech was light on new policy specifics, he reiterated his call for across the board teacher raises and pay boosts for juvenile justice system workers. As for teacher pay, Senate President Robert Stivers advocated against taking what the leaders described as a piecemeal approach.
"You don't, from a policy standpoint, one off or separate out pay raises. You put money in the system. That's what we did, and we did a two-year budget and then we come back and reevaluate after two years," the Manchester Republican said.
On the subject of justice system pay, Osborne said the General Assembly has dedicated dollars for that purpose but is awaiting a still-absent report from the personnel cabinet on how best to allocate them.
"Yes, absolutely, there is a need for pay increases for pay in juvenile justice and corrections, in lots of different areas, but I think that you have to look at it in its entirety," Osborne explained.
Two other priorities Beshear highlighted — legalizing medical marijuana and sports betting — also received a mixed reception from legislative leaders. Stivers hinted at some potential way forward on medical marijuana but expressed a lack of interest in the sports betting issue, saying it would not result in much of a boost for the budget.