FRANKFORT, Ky (WEHT) – The Governor updated Kentuckians on a variety of topics, including the last preview of his budget priorities ahead of the Budget Address.
First, the governor discussed tornado relief. “It was my first priority during this session to get aid to Kentuckians impacted by the deadly tornadoes, and while more will be needed, today I am proud to sign this bill,” Governor Andy Beshear said, in reference to House Bill 5. “I want every family and community touched by these storms to know that we are with you, all of Kentucky is with you – today, tomorrow and however long it takes until we rebuild every structure, every life.”
Senator Mike Wilson, who represents Warren County and sponsored identical legislation in the Senate, said, “We first heard – on a call from the Governor – the needs, as we also talked with our area judge/executives and city mayors and on the ground, FEMA was there almost immediately. But our Emergency Management folks were so critical in all of this. This is just the first allocation of that fund. There will be more after we figure out what the immediate needs are.”
Second, Governor Beshear touched on his proposed budget and some public safety subjects. According to a press release from the Office of Governor Andy Beshear, Governor Beshear discussed his final budget priorities, including a 6% pay increase for state employees. Governor Beshear’s budget also funds body cameras for state police. The Governor is also working to help improve victim services, including the implementation of Marsy’s Law, as well as address case backlogs and additional workload due to recent legislative changes. The Governor is funding efforts to retain correctional officers, juvenile justice youth workers and social workers.
According to a press release from the Office of Governor Andy Beshear,, the Governor’s budget adds 350 social workers to help address staffing shortages and reduce the average caseload. To attract and retain more social workers, the Governor is funding a loan forgiveness program to provide a maximum $3,000 a year for each year of employment as a social service worker with the Department for Community Based Services. The Governor’s budget restores the Commission on Women, restores funding to the Commission on Human Rights and reinstates the Office of Minority Empowerment. The Governor is also returning 100% of coal severance funds to coal counties and creating a $100 million Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
Last, Governor Beshear said there is a blood shortage, the worst in over a decade. According to a press release from the Office of Governor Andy Beshear, the low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants. In December, the Governor gave blood in the Capitol Rotunda along with Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman and other state leaders. Miss USA and a former Team Kentucky All-Star, Elle Smith, also gave blood that day. “We desperately need more folks to sign up and donate. You could save a life,” said Gov. Beshear in his January 13 speech. “Elle, thanks for stepping up again to serve your community.”