In an hour-long end-of-term news conference on Tuesday, Gov. Steve Beshear reflected on his time as the state’s top public official, saying Kentuckians have been able to “make democracy work” and rely on their elected officials to work together despite partisan differences during his two terms.
Beshear highlighted legislation to curb dating violence, require that more children use booster seats and raise the state’s public school dropout age as recent examples of lawmakers from different parties working toward a consensus.
“We run our campaigns on a partisan basis, that’s the way they are, we go at it tooth and toenail,” Beshear said. “But after they’re over with, more often than not we’ve been able to remember that we’re Kentuckians first and Democrats and Republicans second. I hope that continues.”
Beshear is leaving the governor’s mansion with his party nursing political injuries. In the statewide election earlier this month, Democrats lost the governor, auditor and treasurer’s office. They held onto the attorney general’s office by a slim margin.
In the General Assembly, Republicans control the state Senate and are angling to build on their momentum to take control of the House, which has a 54-46 Democratic majority.
Beshear used the meeting with reporters to encourage incoming governor Matt Bevin not to scrap the state’s health insurance exchange and expanded Medicaid system — the crowning achievement of Beshear’s legacy.
“Forget the ideology, forget which president passed the Affordable Care Act, because that shouldn’t make a difference,” he said. “Because this is about the people of the state.”
Beshear said Bevin’s administration will have an easier time writing the state’s budget because of economic improvements over the last few years. Beshear added $82.5 million to the state’s rainy day fund this summer, and the state’s Consensus Forecasting Group predicted state government would have a $242.3 million surplus at the end of this fiscal year.
Beshear said he “won’t retire in the traditional sense” but didn’t provide further details about his future.