Politics

After his first year in office, Gov. Matt Bevin says Kentucky is more united now than ever, pointing to Republicans’ recent dominance in elections across the state.

“If you don’t think we’re uniting Kentucky, there’s never in the history of Kentucky been a Republican House, Senate and governor’s seat,” Bevin said.

During a year-in-review news conference on Friday, the first-term governor touted his administration’s efforts to trim regulations, get the state’s finances in order and root out cronyism in state institutions despite political opposition.

“We didn’t manage to self-combust to this point,” he said. “We’ve gotten a number of things done. There’s been an effort on the part of those in the opposition to turn this into a political battle where everything is a lawsuit and everything is a zero-sum game where somebody wins at the expense of somebody else losing.”

During his first term, Bevin signed a budget that put more money into the state’s ailing pension systems than ever before, money partly captured by cutting most of state government by 9 percent over two years.

The governor belittled critics who condemned his budget cuts.

“That required a tightening of the belt that caused weeping and gnashing of teeth and whining among a whole class of folks that you’re quite aware of,” Bevin said. “To that end, we nonetheless haven’t collapsed, we in fact cut those budgets and in fact everybody’s doing fairly well. The economy is doing well, the state is doing well. The services are being provided.”

Bevin also scaled back Kentucky’s involvement with the Affordable Care Act in an attempt to cut costs and improve health outcomes, scrapping the state health exchange Kynect and applying to modify the state’s Medicaid system.

The new Medicaid plan would require able-bodied beneficiaries to pay monthly premiums costing between $1 and $35 — a provision criticized by healthcare advocates.

“This idea that that’s too much for people to pay is preposterous,” Bevin said.

Bevin criticized journalistic coverage of his first year in elected office, saying that reporters write “silly” stories about his administration.

He also repeatedly criticized reporters for not covering corruption allegations in the office of Attorney General Andy Beshear, a Democrat who is challenging Bevin in multiple lawsuits.

“There is a big stinky mess over in his office,” Bevin said.

Beshear’s top deputy pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges stemming from his time as secretary of the Personnel Cabinet under former Gov. Steve Beshear, Andy’s father.

A top investigator in Beshear’s office was also reprimanded for allegedly lying while testifying in multiple cases.

Bevin said he has “nothing personal” against Beshear. The Democrat successfully sued the governor for cutting already-approved funding to the state’s higher education institutions. The Kentucky Supreme Court ruled against the governor in the case.

Bevin is also dealing with an ongoing challenge from Beshear over whether the governor has authority to unilaterally overhaul the University of Louisville Board of Trustees. Bevin dismissed the school’s board in June and created a new board with all-new appointees, a move that coincided with the school president’s resignation.

The school’s accreditation was put on probation earlier this week in response to the move.

Bevin said he would not seek a job in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration or a U.S. Senate seat over running for re-election in 2019.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.