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Gov. Beshear delivers 2021 State of the Commonwealth Address

Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 11:42 AM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Governor Andy Beshear laid out his financial priorities for Kentucky in Thursday’s Commonwealth and Budget Address. He said he’s focused on providing relief to small businesses, building public infrastructure, and raising salaries for state employees and teachers.

“Tonight, I address both a state and a country that are hurting,” Gov. Beshear said during his address. “Hurting from a pandemic that has swept across the world, upended our economy and taken the lives of our loved ones. Hurting from attacks on our democracy that yesterday rose to the level of a direct attack on the United States Capitol.”

In his combined State of the Commonwealth and Budget address, he announced a three-pillared proposal, which includes the following: providing immediate relief for families and businesses harmed by the pandemic, prioritizing the people of Kentucky and making bold investment sin the state’s future.

The governor announced he’s proposing a fast-tracked bill to immediately make available $220 million in the Better Kentucky Small Business Relief Fund for small businesses that have experienced losses because of the pandemic.

For individual relief, Gov. Beshear says he’s authorizing $48 million in CARES Act funding to those who have waited too long to receive unemployment benefits. That money will also help people who missed out on the federal government’s Lost Wages Assistance Program.

The Better Kentucky Budget will allocate $47.5 million to correct state’s unemployment insurance system. The current system has been in operation since the 1970s, and thousands of Kentuckians have had trouble during the pandemic getting their unemployment insurance because of it.

While going over his second pillar, the governor said he is proposing a $1,000 raise for teachers and classified staffers, and is providing more funding for textbooks and technology.

“I’m pleased to see Gov. Beshear and Lt. Gov. Coleman maintain their focus on education as an investment and a pathway to a better Kentucky,” Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason Glass said. “Now more than ever, our students and teachers need these added resources to overcome the challenges we face.”

He’s proposing a 1% raise for “hardworking state employees,” and is seeking to improve compensation for local and state law enforcement and firefighters with a $600 stipend increase from the Law Enforcement and Firefighters Foundation Program funds, bringing the stipend up to $4,600.

The third pillar of the Better Kentucky Budget includes using $272 million in one-time funds to improve infrastructure and create thousands of jobs.

“The shock of COVID-19 has brought on our current transformational period, and how we lead in the next year will dictate whether Kentucky simply recovers back to the old normal or, instead, takes its place among the most productive and innovative states in the union,” said Gov. Beshear.

His budget focuses on repairing crumbling schools with a one-time $100 million investment to renovate or replace them, and also provides $50 million to fund last-mile broadband coverage.

He and other state leaders postponed the address Wednesday due to the unrest at our nation’s capital. In a normal time, the governor would deliver his remarks to both House and Senate members in the House chamber, but the address was instead a virtual one.

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