Politics

Gov. Matt Bevin on Tuesday touted policy goals ranging from health insurance reform to charter schools in his inaugural address, saying they will give Kentucky a “fresh start.”

Speaking on the Capitol steps before about 2,000 supporters on an unseasonably warm afternoon, Bevin alternated in tone between politically charged and conciliatory.

“I’ll tell you what I see when I see that electoral map — I see a cry for help,” said Bevin, the second Republican told be elected Kentucky’s governor in more than four decades. “And I want to let you know that I hear that cry for help from every corner of this commonwealth. I’m listening.”

Throughout his speech, Bevin repeated the state motto, “united we stand, divided we fall,” as a call for political unity in Kentucky.

Bevin reiterated his desire to shut down the state health exchange, Kynect, through which over 500,000 Kentuckians have gotten health insurance since 2014.

“We are going to transition in 2016. People in the state level exchange … we are going to transfer them to the federal-level exchange like 38 other states are now doing,” Bevin said “And we are going to shut that redundant program down.”

Bevin said the state can’t afford to keep Kynect or the state’s expanded Medicaid program, which covers more than 400,000 Kentuckians.

Bevin wants to model a new plan much like Indiana’s “waiver” program, implemented by Republican Gov. Steve Pence, who attended Bevin’s inauguration.

“In the state of Indiana we can learn from them. We will learn from them,” Bevin said. “And I intend to copy the best parts of what they’re doing and avoid any mistakes they might have made thus far.”

Pence’s program requires enrollees to pay some form of premium for their health insurance.

Bevin renewed his call for public charter schools, which he argues would incentivize public schools to increase their performance.

“There is no competition, absolutely no competition for public education dollars. That is going to end. We are not doing as well as we could be,” Bevin said.

Bevin also pledged to get rid of the inventory tax and death tax as well as “audit every single pension plan.”

“The power to stand united is within each and every one of us. This is our Kentucky, this is our opportunity, this is our ability to become the greatest version of ourselves that we could possibly be,” Bevin said.

Before Bevin and Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton — who is Kentucky’s first African American statewide constitutional office-holder — were ceremonially sworn into office, Iraq War hero Dakota Meyer said that Bevin’s integrity is “something that’s been missing from Kentucky for a while.” Meyer highlighted Bevin’s stance against accepting Syrian refugees.

“That verifies my confidence that we now have a man taking control that puts Kentuckians’ best interest and safety foremost in his decision-making process,” Meyer said.

(Photo credit: J. Tyler Franklin)

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