Kentucky gov touts economy, resilience after tragedies

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Heading into a tough election year, Gov. Andy Beshear asserted Wednesday evening that Kentucky’s future is “brighter than it’s ever been,” and touted a record of economic development and resilience to make his case.


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The Democratic governor, delivering his fourth annual State of the Commonwealth address, cited record-setting economic gains and hailed the state’s ability to overcome the tragedies of tornadoes, flooding and a global pandemic.

Beshear, confronting the headwinds of Republican supermajorities in the legislature head on, urged lawmakers to pump more money into education, to award public school teachers a pay raise and to achieve his goal of universal access to pre-kindergarten learning.

Beshear, whose term has been marked by policy disputes with lawmakers and weather disasters that decimated whole communities in his state, used the statewide television address to urge the legislature to fully legalize access to medical cannabis to help ease the suffering of people diagnosed with debilitating illnesses. He called for additional funding to shore up the state’s troubled juvenile justice system.

The governor, fresh off a morning appearance with President Joe Biden to mark the promised makeover of a dilapidated bridge over the Ohio River between Kentucky and Cincinnati, punctuated his remarks by citing scripture and calling on state leaders to put aside partisan differences to pursue common goals in moving the Bluegrass State forward.

“As Kentuckians, we share the values of faith, family and community,” the governor said in his prepared text. “And if we double down right now, lead with our values, and push politics aside, there is nothing we cannot achieve. Our future is brighter than it’s ever been.”

The speech comes as Beshear prepares for a tough reelection campaign in a state that continues to trend toward Republicans. The governor has remained popular while leading the state through a series of tragedies but has drawn a crowded field of GOP candidates wanting to unseat him.

Beshear’s efforts to stave off that GOP momentum is one reason the Kentucky governor’s race in 2023 will be closely watched nationally, coming the year before the next presidential election.

In his speech, the governor harkened back to the state’s tragedies that overshadowed his term — the COVID-19 pandemic, tornadoes that tore through parts of western Kentucky and floodwaters that inundated portions of eastern Kentucky.

“Scripture tells us that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves,” Beshear said. “And that’s exactly what folks across this commonwealth have been doing.”

The governor touted the state’s unprecedented economic growth in the past two years, saying it provides the “promise of a better Kentucky.” The gains have put Kentucky on a course to ensure that future generations of Kentuckians “never have to leave this state to pursue their dreams.”

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