Gov. Beshear: ‘State of the Commonwealth Is Stronger Than It Has Ever Been’
Working together is how we continue to move the state forward
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Jan. 3, 2024) – Tonight, less than a month after being sworn in for a second term, Gov. Andy Beshear delivered his annual State of the Commonwealth Address and said that “thanks to the strength of our people and our red-hot economy, the state of our commonwealth is stronger than it has ever been.”
Throughout the address, the Governor detailed the state’s strength and resilience by sharing stories of several Good Samaritans, helpers and heroes who attended the address, which included economic development leaders, teachers, health care heroes and first responders. To capitalize on the work Kentuckians are doing to make their communities better, the Governor said everyone must continue to come together to move the state forward by renewing investments in economic development, communities affected by natural disasters, education, infrastructure, health care and public safety.
“To me, improving life right here at home is the most important focus that we can have,” Gov. Beshear said. “And these next four years are our chance – Kentucky’s chance – to be the difference, to be both an economic and a moral leader of this country. This is our time to push away the division; to prove we can govern without name-calling or scapegoating; to do it without anger, fear or hatred. That we not only talk about our collective faith, but actually live it.”
The Governor’s funding priorities for the current session were unveiled Dec. 18, 2023, in his budget address, and he continued to push for several key investments during Wednesday’s speech, including funding to support universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds and help for child care providers, as well as an 11% pay raise for all public school employees.
Matthew Oates, an educator at Muhlenberg County High School, attended the address and was recognized by the Governor for going above and beyond for his community. In 2021, Oates was volunteering with the tornado cleanup efforts by driving a dump truck to haul away debris in Bremen when the Governor met him.
“It was a special moment for me to meet one of our amazing teachers, who was doing even more to help his community,” Gov. Beshear said.
The Governor said Matthew and his wife, Jamie, who is a 3rd-grade teacher at Longest Elementary in Muhlenberg County, both work two jobs to support their family.
“Our public school employees deserve better than that,” Gov. Beshear said. “Our educators are difference-makers every day. Let’s show them we appreciate what they do by funding an 11% raise for every public school employee.”
The Governor also called for more funding to support the health care and mental health care needs of Kentuckians, and he shared the stories of Norton Healthcare’s Corenza Townsend and 988-crisis counselor Haley Johnson, who were also in attendance.
Gov. Beshear recognized Townsend for her role in getting the ball rolling on what is now known as Norton West Louisville Hospital. She now serves as chief administrative officer of the new care center, which is the first hospital in West Louisville in 150 years. The Governor recognized Johnson for being one of the first counselors hired to answer 988 calls and help those facing a risk of suicide, mental health distress or addiction crisis.
Gov. Beshear also honored military service members and law enforcement officers lost in 2022 and 2023, and he recognized Savannah and Paisley Chaffins, who were in attendance. Savannah lost her spouse and Paisley her dad when Kentucky lost Prestonsburg Police Officer Jacob Chaffins in 2022. Prestonsburg Police Capt. Ralph Frasure, Floyd County Sheriff’s Deputy William Petry and a K-9 also were killed in that same incident.
The Governor also called for more funding to support public safety, including $35 million to provide local law enforcement and first responders with the very best body armor.
Gov. Beshear concluded his speech by saying, “With this new year comes new opportunity for progress – to build that better, brighter Kentucky. That is what our children deserve – to make sure they can chase any dream they could ever imagine right here at home. Scripture reminds us, ‘Our God is merciful and tender. He will cause the bright dawn of salvation to rise on us.’ We’re walking into that bright dawn, and we’re doing it together. Remember: Life is short, so do good things and be kind to each other.”
For the complete text of the Governor’s address, which was delivered before a joint session of the General Assembly, click here. The speech can be viewed on the Governor’s YouTube channel and Facebook page.