FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear's seventh State of the Commonwealth address was at a once a plea for reinvestments in education, a nebulous call for tax reform and a self-congratulatory pat on the back for Kentucky's deft implementation of the federal healthcare law.
Speaking to lawmakers on the first day of the 2014 legislative session, Beshear took pride in what he described as six years of progress in changing perceptions about the state on a national level.
"As a result of our efforts both last year and over the last six years, we are shrugging off an historic reputation for backwardness and instead are writing a new narrative founded on change and innovation. And the nation has taken notice," Beshear said in his prepared speech.
He said the state lagged behind on student test scores, but he pointed to improvements such as the implementation of Common Core standards. He said the state is on target to reach its 2015 of making 67 percent of high school graduates prepared for college or careers.
Beshear touted a variety of efforts to improve Kentuckians' health, including support for a statewide smoking ban, and he wants to cut the state's smoking rate by 10 percent by 2018.
He also touched upon tax reform, but did not offer any specifics regarding which measures he would support, calling the state's current system a "core weakness."
"Why should the commonwealth continue to hamstring itself by using an outdated tax structure?" Beshear said.
He also asked legislators to pass expanded gaming legislation—specifically, to pass a bill that would allow the issue to come up for a vote by Kentuckians, and pressed them to consider domestic violence legislation that would extend protection to unmarried couples.
"Violence is violence and abuse is abuse," he said, "whether you're in a married relationship or not."
He ended his speech by making a call for civility in the legislative process.
"In the last few years, the tone of discourse in this country has grown louder, uglier and more hateful,' he said. "We must remember that we are Kentuckians first and Democrats and Republicans second."