"I refuse to use this recession as an excuse not to move forward," Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear (D) told lawmakers in the politically divided Legislature Jan. 6, as another session of difficult budget choices got under way. "I refuse to hunker down and hide, to just wait out this storm and to passively accept the economic situation that others have created for us."
In his state of the commonwealth address, Beshear, who faces re-election in 2011, took credit for making state government "a leader, more efficient operation" during recent tough times, but made few major proposals for the coming session. Instead, he focused on a few specific priorities aimed at helping families, creating jobs and making government more efficient.
The governor proposed eliminating a premium that needy families must pay to access the state's health care program for children, and he said he would seek to use Medicaid funds for smoking cessation programs, noting that Kentucky has among the highest smoking rates in the nation. He proposed tougher domestic violence laws. On education, he proposed raising the state's dropout age and allowing college students to transfer between institutions more easily.
While other governors, including California's Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), have touted alternative energy sources as drivers of economic development, Beshear said he would "continue to vigorously support the production of Kentucky coal to fuel this nation's industrial might."
Beshear said he has cut the budget six times — amounting to about $900 million — since taking office in 2008, leading to the fewest executive-branch state employees in two decades. He promised to "continue my commitment to making sure that every one of your tax dollars is spent wisely."