FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Gov. Andy Beshear delivered his first State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday evening, saying Kentucky faces numerous economic and social challenges.
He said the drug epidemic, poverty, teacher pay, and high-crime rate remain key issues.
“I am proud to report to you tonight that the state of our commonwealth is strong, coming together, and ready to face our challenges,” Beshear said early in his speech.
He outlined many of the issues that the state faces, including public education. He said his "education first budget" would include a $2,000 raise for teachers.
“These teachers deserve a raise,” Beshear said. “They are on the front lines of every problem we face as a commonwealth, from family-member addiction, to hunger, to the need for better jobs.”
The Democratic governor also spoke of opioid epidemic, which he said must be addressed with “compassion and real-world solutions.”
He talked about Kentucky residents working two and three jobs – and still struggling to make ends meet.
“It is a reality where we are the third poorest state by per capita income,” Beshear said. “Where 22% of our children live in poverty. Where we are in the top eight of states in terms of hunger.”
The governor spoke of a project that will bring jobs to eastern Kentucky.
"I want to take a moment to give credit where credit is due," Beshear said. "The last administration landed an amazing agri-tech project in AppHarvest, and its founder Jonathan Webb. Jonathan, who is here today, is building what will be the largest greenhouse in North America. He’s going to employ nearly 300 Kentuckians, and he’s doing it in eastern Kentucky.
Beshear outlined the following goals:
- Passing a law to ensure no one can lose health care coverage because of a preexisting condition
- Fully funding pension obligations
- Passage of bipartisan proposal curbing the cost of insulin
- Ending surprise medical bills that can financially devastate families
- Defeating pharmaceutical companies and require every dollar from these companies go towards ending the opioid epidemic
- Criminal justice reform to end the state’s high incarceration rate that hurts our budget and our communities
Beshear also spoke of divisive politics that he says are counterproductive to change.
“We, in this capital and around Kentucky, are responsible for using the power and privilege of office to do right by Kentuckians, to focus our energy not on partisan squabbles but on working together to figure out how to better the commonwealth we all love so dearly,” Beshear said. “And let me be clear: every moment we focus on partisanship, every moment we focus on national divisions, we fail to address the reality before us.”
To see Beshear's complete State of the Commonwealth speech, click here.