KENTUCKY (WEHT) – Kentucky governor Andy Beshear delivered his weekly Team Kentucky update on May 25. During the press conference, the governor discussed economic development, infrastructure improvements and the state’s response to natural disasters.

Honoring Law Enforcement Officers

This week, Gov. Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman attended events to honor and remember Kentucky peace officers lost in the line of duty. The Governor also honored Caleb Conley, a decorated deputy of the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, who was killed during a traffic stop on Monday.

“We are deeply grateful for the sacrifices these officers made and the sacrifices their families continue to make each and every day,” said Gov. Beshear. “We promise to never forget them and to continue to provide for them and honor them in any way we can.”

Economic Development Growth

Gov. Beshear highlighted Kentucky’s continued economic success as Site Selection magazine placed the commonwealth at No. 1 in the South Central region of its newly released 2023 Prosperity Cup rankings, moving up two spots from last year’s third place position. Kentucky also placed in the top five nationally after ranking sixth in 2022.

The Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority approved 11 projects Thursday for over $6.8 million in state funding in addition to local support.

Grants to Clean Up Brownfields

The Governor and Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman announced that 10 Kentucky communities and agencies have been selected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to receive over $7.9 million in grant funding to assess and clean up “brownfields” – industrial and commercial properties that are known or suspected to contain contaminants.

Two local communities are part of this intiative.

Public Safety

Gov. Beshear said that Kentucky State Police Troopers of Post 11 made a large drug bust in Laurel County during a traffic stop Sunday, and large amounts of methamphetamine and heroin were seized, along with drug paraphernalia.

“Thank you to the troopers of Kentucky State Police Post 11 for your impressive work on this case. Because of you, even more dangerous drugs are off the streets, and the commonwealth has been made safer,” said Gov. Beshear.

Kentucky Sees Decline in Overdose Deaths

A recent article from the Associated Press noted that Kentucky is one of eight states that saw a sizeable overdose death decrease last year, while the nation saw an uptick in deaths. The article notes that the decrease in overdose deaths is due to intentional work to address addiction and offer more treatment services.

“Our efforts are making a difference – in fact, they are saving lives. And that is what is most important,” said Gov. Beshear. “This work is never-ending, and we will continue to fight this drug crisis with everything that we can because, as I’ve said time and time again, one Kentuckian lost to drug overdose is one too many.”

General Assembly Inaction on Gas Tax

In June 2022, Gov. Beshear signed an emergency regulation to prevent the Kentucky state gas tax from increasing. Under Kentucky law, when the average wholesale price of gas goes up a certain amount, the gas tax will increase as well. Without the Governor’s action, the law would have increased what Kentuckians were paying at the pump by 2 cents per gallon starting July 1, 2022. The emergency regulation was estimated to help Kentuckians save up to $35.4 million through January 2023.

House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Derrick Graham filed House Bill 89, which included language to maintain the tax rate freeze through fiscal year 2024. Although the Governor urged the General Assembly to keep the gas tax freeze in place, the bill failed to pass. As a result, beginning July 1, the gas tax rate will increase another 2.1 cents per gallon in the commonwealth.

“I want Kentuckians to understand this process because it impacts us all at the pump,” said Gov. Beshear. “We are doing everything we can to try to help keep more money in the pockets of our hard-working Kentucky families and to provide some relief in these challenging times.”

Brain Cancer Proclamation

Gov. Beshear signed and presented three proclamations that recognize advocates working to find a cure for childhood brain cancer. The Governor first recognized May 17 as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG, Awareness Day in the commonwealth. To honor David Turner Jr., who died from DIPG, Gov. Beshear also declared May 21 as David Turner Jr. Ice Cream Day in Kentucky. The Governor then signed a proclamation recognizing May as Brain Tumor Awareness Month.

“Today, I want to celebrate some of the advocates who are working to find a cure for childhood brain cancer – something no kid should have to go through,” said Gov. Beshear. “We’re determined to make Kentucky a national leader in the fight against childhood cancer by raising awareness and funds for research. These advocates are heroes in this fight, and I am inspired by them.”

Eastern Kentucky Flood, February/March Severe Weather Update

The Governor provided an update on recovery and rebuilding efforts in Eastern Kentucky. Currently, 106 families are housed in travel trailers, and Kentucky State Parks are now housing 14 people, down from the 360 people sheltered on Sept. 1, 2022. Over 270 households have transitioned out of the Commonwealth Sheltering Program in Eastern Kentucky.

Gov. Beshear also updated Kentuckians on the severe weather that occurred in Feb. and March. Houses of worship impacted during the severe weather event from Feb. 15-20, 2023, located in one of the 22 declared counties can apply for FEMA public assistance by the June 8 deadline. Houses of worship impacted during the March 3-4 storms that are in one of the 12 counties added to the disaster declaration can apply by the June 18 deadline.

Team Kentucky All-Star

The Governor recognized Augusta Independent High School student Erica Kegley, whose art was recently chosen as the Kentucky winner of the Doodle for Google contest, and named her this week’s Team Kentucky All-Star.

“Erica, Team Kentucky is so proud of you. Thank you for representing our state well,” said Gov. Beshear. “I hope everyone will join me in supporting Erica and Augusta Independent by casting their votes today for the national competition.”