KY General Assembly: Beshear ramps up re-election campaign, talks state funding

Frankfort, KY – The overarching story for the country for the last year has been, and will continue to be MONEY. This month Kentucky, Illinois and Tennessee legislatures are in or heading into their respective chambers to find ways to balance budgets that are billions of dollars in the red. And in many cases those same legislators are hoping to get re-elected, so the challenge to please everyone and pass policy that rarely pleases everyone is going to be very tough.

We go to Frankfort where Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, who is ramping up his re-election campaign, delivered his state of the Commonwealth Address Wednesday Night. Chad Lampe brings us more on just what the Governor has on his agenda this session.

Governor Beshear would like a healthier, educated, and employed Kentucky, and he hopes to accomplish these goals on a shoestring budget. His initiatives are clear although not always agreeable, Beshear says lawmakers, though fierce competitors must pull together to ensure the best for the Commonwealth.

" I've fought hard for my candidates, as political leaders of both parties nationwide have done for centuries. And yes, come Feb. 2, I'll be fighting for the 24th House district candidate I deem will best help me move Kentucky forward. But come Feb. 3, I will put the special election aside and work with the winner, no matter what party he is from."

Beshear's comments come as no surprise to the general public, but he has been on the campaign trail often, recently. And Senate President David Williams isn't quick to believe the Governor will work with members on both sides of the aisle. Williams has lost one GOP seat in the senate after Governor Beshear appointed a republican to another post prompting a special election.

" ..we're willing to stick with him and work with him if he gets serious and gets off the political stump and gets down in the trenches."

With a democratically controlled house and a republican controlled senate, there is no question bipartisanship is needed to move legislation forward.

On Healthcare One of Beshear's priorities is to eliminate premiums for the state's poorest family's seeking Kentucky's Children's Health Insurance or KCHIP. He also hopes to use Medicaid funds for smoking cessation programs.

"The negative impact of our smoking rates - among adults, teens and pregnant women - has been tremendous. Through various efforts, we've shown improvement - our smoking rate is now 25 percent instead of 28 percent. But we can do more. We must do more."

On Education Beshear says he will push to save schools and universities from 3 percent cuts that will likely face most state agencies. His highest priority in the budget is the base school funding program known as SEEK, or Support Education Excellence in Kentucky. Beshear also hopes to raise the state's drop out age to 18.

"Letting our children leave school early - in a world where more education, not less, is what is needed - denies them a chance for a bright and rewarding future .Without education, many of our dropouts are doomed to mediocrity, or worse."

While Beshear's intentions again, seem good, he is still met with opposition, not in principle from Senate President David Williams

"A lot of people that drop out do it not because they are bad people or because they want to drop out is because they fall behind and they get embarrassed and they have low self esteem and they want to move on and they don't have a lot of people in their family who have had success in the system either and we are working on that but just to wave a wand to increase the number but without providing significant dollars doesn't seem to be anything but an empty promise to me."

Beshear also called for a more seamless system for the transfer of credits from the community and technical college system and other universities. On revenue, Governor Beshear remained quiet on how he plans to generate or cut 1.4 billion dollars for existing programs. He also failed to mention a single word about expanded gaming at horse tracks. But, he might have been saving his breath for his budget address which is January 19th.