Beshear touts economic growth, emphasizes education in State of the Commonwealth Address

Governor Beshear touts economic growth, emphasizes education in State of the Commonwealth Address
Published: Jan. 4, 2023 at 4:56 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 4, 2023 at 10:53 PM EST
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Governor Andy Beshear delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth Address before a joint session of the Kentucky House and Senate.

Governor Beshear has said his administration is an education-first administration. And Wednesday night he officially addressed to lawmakers his Education First Plan.

Before lawmakers, Wednesday night, Governor Andy Beshear touted record economic growth and resiliency after tragedy.

“Tonight, I want to talk first about how we are Kentucky tough and how we have navigated historic challenges,” said Governor Beshear. “Then, I want to focus on the extraordinary potential we have, in this decisive moment, to lift up all of our people and all of our families.”

During his State of the Commonwealth Address, Governor Beshear talked about the challenges from last summer’s deadly floods. But also looked to the future to grow Kentucky and education.

“The first bill contains our Education First Plan, which begins with a 5% pay raise for every public school educator,” said Governor Beshear. “Passage of this bill is both vital and necessary to address Kentucky’s shortage of nearly 11,000 public school educators.”

Last year, Kentucky dropped from 42nd to 44th in the nation for teacher pay.

Universal pre-k and other educational programs are going to be in the bill. State Republican leaders were asked if they’ll make it happen.

“To start doing one-offs is a terrible policy standpoint,” said Senate President Robert Stivers. “Goals and aspirations are lofty, but you put money into the SEEK formula, 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.”

Stivers says this gives districts more control to give raises that are financially feasible for them to handle.

Beshear also says this is the year to pass medical marijuana and sports betting. Both passed in the House last year but died in the Senate.

Stivers doesn’t believe enough revenue potential is there for sports betting to be a priority.

“I don’t think it’s a big issue in this state,” said Stivers. “It’s not going to generate a lot of money, it’s an appetizer or a dessert type of portion of your overall menu of your entertainment dollar, but it’s not that big of a deal in my opinion.”

As for medical marijuana, for the last two sessions medical marijuana has passed in the house and died in the Senate.

The Governor has this executive order allowing patients who meet certain conditions and criteria to legally possess small amounts, but that’s just a temporary fix. He needs lawmakers to pass a more concrete and laid out plan.

Senate President Robert Stivers says he believes there are benefits to it but maintains there are not enough studies yet to lay out the framework.

Watch the full address on KET’s website.