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Beshear praises budget bill that may help Kentucky reach its ‘potential’

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear told reporters Monday he found a lot to like in the two-year budget lawmakers sent to him.

During his Monday press conference, he said the spending plan provides for “significant investments” in post-secondary education and workforce development. That’s crucial since he believes the state has the chance to be “a top 10 economy” coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is so much potential in front of us,” Beshear said. “So together, our job using this budget is to turn two incredible years of economic progress in to 20 years of prosperity that reaches every part of the state.”

The budget included several items Beshear wanted. That included additional investments in extending broadband internet and clean water to all parts of the state and spurring additional economic development investments. However, the governor did lament some on what he considered missed opportunities with the budget.

While the budget included raises for most state workers, it did not mandate school districts to provide raises to teachers and other personnel. It also did not include funding for universal pre-K in school districts.

Both of those were items Beshear, a Democrat, put in his budget proposal. However, Republicans, who hold supermajorities in the House and Senate, submitted their own budget plan in advance of the governor’s, a move that bucked tradition in Frankfort.

Beshear said the pre-K initiative isn’t just an education issue. It also hits at getting more people in the workforce, a primary issue for Republicans in this year’s session.

According to a Kentucky Chamber of Commerce report, at just 56.3%, the state’s workforce participation rate – the percentage of working-age residents either working or actively seeking a job – was the third lowest in the country last year.

“It’s the single fastest thing we can do to put people back into the workforce,” he said. “You can’t talk about putting people back into the workforce, you can’t make cuts into our safety net claiming it’s going to get people back, and then not do the simplest, most effective thing – universal pre-K – that would actually work.”

Beshear did announce 22 line-item vetoes to the budget. The governor said some were of a technical nature, including a veto on water projects that he said would accommodate larger, regional projects.

Other vetoes hinted at the discord between the GOP-led legislature and Democratic administration over the last couple of years. One of those was in regard to budget provisions for executive branch reorganizations. In his veto message, Beshear said he vetoed that because he considered it “another power grab” by lawmakers.

The General Assembly needs only a simple majority in both chambers to override any vetoes. Lawmakers will return to Frankfort Wednesday for the final two days of the session.

“We will review every veto and the governor’s veto messages,” Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, told The Center Square. “I think it’s likely that most, if not all, of the vetoes will be overridden, but we will review to make sure there wasn’t something that we missed and that perhaps he actually came up with a good idea or suggestion.”

This article was originally posted on Beshear praises budget bill that may help Kentucky reach its ‘potential’

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