Gov. Andy Beshear delivered his first State of the Commonwealth address on Tuesday, urging the state legislature to move beyond partisan disagreements and support his agenda.
One week into Kentucky’s annual legislative session, Beshear called on lawmakers to curb insulin costs, reform the criminal justice system and find new revenue by legalizing sports betting.
Beshear also called on lawmakers to pass a budget that gives teachers a $2,000 per year raise and end cuts to higher education.
“The education-first budget that I’m constructing will be designed to provide us with the opportunity to truly change lives moving forward and it will absolutely embrace higher education,” Beshear said.
Beshear will unveil his budget proposal during another official address on Jan 28.
Tuesday’s State of the Commonwealth address was one of the few times in state history that a governor addressed a legislature controlled by the opposite party.
This year the Republican-legislature is in charge of writing a two-year state budget. With veto-proof majorities in each chamber, Republicans will be in charge of the budget writing process.
Beshear, a Democrat, said that lawmakers need to avoid partisan squabbles.
“Every moment that we focus on partisanship, every moment we focus on national divisions, we fail to address the reality that is before us,” Beshear said.
Beshear also touted executive orders he made during his first month in office — restoring voting rights to people with non-violent felony convictions, rescinding Gov. Bevin’s proposed Medicaid work requirements and waiving the GED testing fee.
To pay for his initiatives Beshear again suggested legalizing casino gambling, a plan that Republican leaders in the state Senate say is a non-starter.
Republican House Speaker David Osborne called Beshear’s speech “pleasant,” but said it was unrealistic.
“The only thing he didn’t propose was puppies,” Osborne said.
“It is great to throw out wonderful proposals and ideas, but at some point in time we have to face the reality of how we’re going to manage those and how we’re going to actually fund them.”
Former Republican Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration predicted that the state would have a $1.1 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Economists have predicted the state will bring in little new revenue over that period.