Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin visits Martin County to discuss key issues

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MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Sharing a message of opportunity and economic growth, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin stopped in Inez on Saturday.

Gov. Bevin said he is fighting for more job opportunities in the state. "I want people to wonder why all their kids have to go to Kentucky to get a job," he said.'

Martin County residents asked the governor how a struggling county invites, and prepares for, that kind of growth. "If we don't have good infrastructure, then people can't be confident that this is a place they want to be," he said. With that, the conversation transitioned to fixing issues with Martin County's water system.

"We are dedicating every resource we can, both state dollars and channeling federal dollars, into this and we're making progress," Gov. Bevin said. He said they are also applying for additional federal money that he hopes will help fix the system.

Gov. Bevin said Martin County should focus on the treatment center and filtration before working on water lines.

Others in the crowd came to ask tough questions about the legislative session. First, an attendee asked why Gov. Bevin vetoed a pension bill that was aimed at providing relief to some state-funded agencies struggling with ballooning retirement payments.

Gov. Bevin said in his veto message that he will call a special legislative session before July 1 to give lawmakers another chance on the issue. The Republican governor said the measure violated the "moral and legal obligation" the state has to the affected retirees.

On Saturday, Gov. Bevin said it was a good bill, but if it passed in its current state, that would have lead to a lawsuit. "I'm not looking for new territory here. I'm looking for them to literally pass the same bill without things in it that are going to get sued," he said.

Teachers also stood up to talk about their pension system and ask Gov. Bevin why he said the system needs to be fixed. House Bill 525 would have reorganized the process by which members of the retirement system board are elected. The bill prompted "sick-outs" across the state.

"In Kentucky, we now have more retirees than people working. The system is completely broken," Gov. Bevin said.

Gov. Bevin said big pension promises were made in past years, and those are no longer realistic because the workforce is shrinking. "Knowing it is not possible to sustain it even for those current employees and retirees, why under any circumstance would we make the same promise to a future employee?" he asked.

Gov. Bevin said new employees would still be made some kind of pension promise, but it would not match what current and previous employees are getting.

Teachers followed up with questions about charter schools. They said they take money from public education and do not provide equal opportunity to every student. Gov. Bevin claimed the teachers were misinformed. "It gives parent and it gives students some option other than the abject failure they've been getting decade after decade," he said.

Gov. Bevin said charter schools would still follow public school standards and teachers would be state certified. While teachers were skeptical of his response, it all circled back to providing opportunity to everyone in eastern Kentucky.

Gov. Bevin addressed concerns about new companies coming to the state. He said EnerBlu suspended its plans for a Pikeville facility because of a lack of capital. The company was originally supposed to bring more than 800 jobs to the city.

However, Gov. Bevin said Braidy Industries is completely committed to Kentucky, and the state is committed to doing whatever it takes to bring the business to the state. He hinted at a possible announcement on economic growth coming in the next few days.