KENTUCKY (WEHT) – Governor Andy Beshear held a Team Kentucky update on Thursday to discuss economic development, a decrease in gas prices and state real property taxes, the highest annual growth rate in decades, western Kentucky tornado recovery, work to address the water shortage in Marion, the new 988 mental health lifeline, Christmas in July events for families impacted by the December 10 tornadoes and COVID-19.

Economic development

Governor Beshear highlighted two economic development projects in the commonwealth, totaling over $2.5 million in investment, which are expected to create 50 full-time jobs.

The governor congratulated Advanced Handling Systems LLC, a Hy-Tek Material Handling company and leader in full-service integration of automated fulfillment and distribution products, on the grand opening of its newly renovated innovation space in Erlanger on Wednesday. The innovation lab is expected to create 35 jobs with a more than $500,000 investment. The governor also announced leaders at Accuride Corp. are investing in the company’s Henderson County facility with a $2 million commitment to create 15 jobs for Kentucky residents.

Lowering gas prices and state real property taxes

Governor Beshear addressed a trending drop in gas prices in the commonwealth. As U.S. gas prices dropped nearly 50-cents over the last month, Kentucky saw a 4-cent-per-gallon drop since just yesterday.

The governor highlighted the average price drops over the last month in the following areas:

  • 57 cents in Bowling Green
  • 45 cents in Covington
  • 69 cents in Elizabethtown
  • 57 cents in Henderson
  • 50 cents in Hopkinsville
  • 34 cents in Lexington
  • 45 cents in Louisville
  • 70 cents in Owensboro

Governor Beshear also shared that the state real property tax rate has decreased, dropping from 11.9 cents to 11.5 cents per $100 assessed value. The Kentucky department of Revenue is required by statute to set the real property tax rate each year by July 1.

“I want Kentuckians to know, we’re watching and we know the property you own has gone up in value," said Governor Beshear. "That’s why we’ve cut the state property tax rate for real estate to try to help out. To ensure your bill isn’t going up significantly and hopefully, for many of you, it is in fact going down.”

Highest annual growth rate in 31 years

Governor Beshear said that Kentucky's economic momentum is continuing this week as the state's fiscal year 2022 General Fund receipts great the highest rate in 31 years.

The Office of State Budget Director reported 14.6% growth over last year and noted that General Fund receipts totaled $14.7 billion, exceeding the budgeted estimate by $945.4 million. The governor also noted the state's rainy day fund is expected to reach almost $2.7 billion.

Additional $12 million to assist tornado relief

Governor Beshear announced an additional $12 million from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to assist individuals impacted by the December 2021 tornadoes with specific unmet needs.

The assistance is targeted at long-term recovery and will be managed with the assistance of long-term recovery groups. Eleven groups sought assistance from the fund and will collect and evaluate the needs of the community members and submit individuals' needs to the Public Protection Cabinet.

Starting last Friday, the governor and first lady celebrated Christmas in July with communities impacted by the tornadoes. The governor noted a similar event will soon be held in Caldwell County.

Update on Marion water shortage

The Kentucky Emergency Operations Center, the Kentucky National Guard, the Division of Water, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the city of Marion and the private sector are coordinating daily to bring bottled and raw water to the city and to find short and long term solutions to the water emergency.

A press release from the governor says the National Guard has handed out more than 398,000 bottles of water provided by the state and through donations. The governor also said the volume of raw water hauled to Marion has increased to 120,000 gallons per day and is expected to increase in the coming weeks.

988 lifeline

Governor Beshear said beginning on Saturday, the easy to remember three-digit mental health crisis hotline, 988, will operationally launch in the commonwealth. The move is part of a nationwide departure away from the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255), which will remain available during the changeover to help people in need.

“My administration has always prioritized mental health the same as physical health,” Gov. Beshear said. “And with the launch of 988, we have made it easier for Kentuckians to reach out and get the assistance they need and deserve.”

COVID-19 update

Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health Dr. Steven Stack provided an update on COVID-19 in the commonwealth. Dr. Stack noted that while hospitalizations, ICU bed and ventilator use all remain at some of the lowest levels seen since the beginning of the pandemic, the virus is still actively spreading in Kentucky.

“Currently, all active variants in Kentucky continue to be Omicron variants,” Dr. Stack said. “BA.5 has become the predominant variant nationwide at about 65% of the total COVID sequenced, and Kentucky is seeing a similar pattern. BA.5 does not appear to cause increased hospitalization or death, but it is causing more reinfections because previous strains confer less immunity to BA.5.”

The governor and Dr. Stack both encouraged unvaccinated Kentuckians to get vaccinated and for vaccinated Kentuckians to get boosted if they haven't already.

Team Kentucky All-star

Governor Beshear congratulated Ada Limón, a poet from Lexington who was named the 24th U.S. poet laureate by the Library of Congress and recognized her as this week's Team Kentucky All-star. In her role as poet laureate, Limón will serve as the official poet of the United States.

“Literature is an important and special part of Kentucky culture, which is why I’m proud to congratulate Ada on being named the 24th U.S. poet laureate,” Gov. Beshear said. “Every year, the Library of Congress appoints one American to this esteemed position – and this year, it’s a member of Team Kentucky!”