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Beshear delivers his proposed budget via pre-taped remarks

Governor's Office

Unlike in 2022, when the legislature jumped ahead of Beshear by pushing out their budget before the governor's, this year Beshear presented his even earlier — before the budget session gets underway.

As anticipated, the Democrat led off with big-ticket education items , including his long-touted 11% raise for teachers, universal pre-K, $68 million in childcare programs in the next year, and a plan to fully fund student transportation.

Beshear said the raises in particular are a lesson surrounding states have already learned.

"The Republican governor of Tennessee signed a bill this year to provide their teachers the largest pay raise in state history," the governor noted. "This budget is our opportunity, our chance to make things right here in Kentucky."

It's a suite of issues the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy's Jason Bailey told KET does need urgent action.

"We have a growing teacher and bus driver shortage, fewer people are going into the teaching profession and more are leaving, we have buses that can't get to school on time because we don't have enough drivers, and it's reached a crisis point," he said. "One of the things I appreciate about what the governor laid out is the need for more investment in those fundamentals."

On infrastructure, Beshear called it Kentucky's Eisenhower moment, when the state can make major investments. On his list: $500m for grants to continue bolstering clean water and wastewater systems, more emphasis on high speed broadband, and $200 million for more site development — to attract projects like the much-touted EV battery plants.

Elsewhere in the proposal, the governor called for $2,500 raises for Kentucky State Troopers, a new Western Kentucky Regional Law Enforcement Center, more money for reentry services, fully funding the Medicaid expansion, and the creation of two new all-female youth detention centers, one in Fayette County.

While the budget includes a number shared priorities, Republican strategist Amy Wickliffe said GOP leaders in the House and Senate probably have one key problem with the budget right out of the gate.

"What's going to be top of mind for the Republican super-majorities is that this budget likely abandons all possibility to reduce the personal income tax another half percent to get us down to 3.5%," she said. "And we know that the Republican super-majorities have been laser-focused on that."

Republicans have given Beshear's proposals a chilly reception since his re-election, with Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer saying he sees little incentive to work with the governor when his party holds veto-proof majorities in both chambers.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.