He reminded Kentuckians of his top priorities — education, job creation and maintenance, and ensuring public safety — and his commitment to keeping these areas at the forefront of his agenda without increasing taxes. Beshear said taxes are “not the answer” and he “will not burden our families as they struggle to survive” or “jeopardize our fragile recovery” with them.
Beshear utilized appeals to emotion throughout his speech and earned a standing ovation as he shared his view on the future of the coal industry in Kentucky — calling for the continual research in “clean use” and fewer restrictions from Washington about how to use the resource. The resource feeds the families of 18,000 Kentucky coal miners, he said.
“Washington bureaucrats continue to try to impose arbitrary and unreasonable regulations on the mining of coal,” he said. “And to them I say, ‘Get off our backs! Get off our backs.’”
He also called attention to legislation proposed in this session to raise the dropout age for high schoolers from 16 to 18. Beshear said pushing more students toward graduation would help stimulate the economy while increasing the education standards in the state.
People with more education make more money and can make a better life for themselves and their families, Beshear said. He said dropouts also increase the number of people on welfare and inflate prison costs. House Bill 225 would gradually implement this change, if approved.
Beshear also pushed for the legislature to approve his plan for fixing the Medicaid budget imbalance. His main idea was to move about $166.5 million from next year’s fiscal budget to cover this year’s deficit. He also suggests increasing reliance on private managed-care companies to provide more efficient Medicaid services.
In addition to urging the state’s lawmakers to pass specific pieces of legislation, Beshear asked them to simply cooperate in working to get bills through this session, which started Tuesday. He reminded them that Kentucky needs unity and solidarity, not division.
“Some of us have different ideas about how to fix Kentucky’s problems,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean we cannot and should not make life better for our people by identifying areas of agreement and places to collaborate.
“Outside this building, people are sick and tired of partisan rhetoric and political posturing. Rank partisanship doesn’t put food on the table. It doesn’t educate a child, and it doesn’t create a job.”
Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said cooperation would be key to getting any pieces of legislation passed in the short session.
“It’s already a short time frame since we’ll be in there less than five weeks, and Senate President David Williams just pushed a bill to cut the session short by six days to save some money, so that would make it even shorter,” Damron said. “It’ll further compound the ability to get some things done. There are 100 members in the House and a lot of different ideas, so some will pass and some will not.”
Damron also said he thought Beshear’s speech was a good one overall, giving it a ranking of an eight or nine on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best. He said he thought Beshear showed strong leadership.
“I think the speech was well received by the members. He didn’t get into the gubernatorial race too much,” Damron said. “He’s had a really tough three years and hasn’t had any money to work with, so he’s worked with what he’s gotten.”
Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, was a little harsher on the governor, saying he’d give the speech a six. Buford said he didn’t see enough of a concrete plan for advancement.
“He did the best he could with what he had, but I came away kind of feeling sad that the resources financially are what they are, and it’s going to be difficult for Kentucky to advance until the economy improves,” Buford said. “If we had the revenue, he’d be offering up new ideas, but he doesn’t have a lot to work with.”