Beshear wants money for clean water, internet access in Kentucky’s next budget, will face voters before then

by McKenna Horsley, Kentucky Lantern

Gov. Andy Beshear is calling on the General Assembly to set aside millions in the next state budget for clean water, high-speed internet access and economic development. 

Beshear, a Democrat seeking reelection this year, said in a Tuesday morning news conference that his “Better Kentucky” plan would be an investment in the future for Kentucky families. 

The latest plan, along with his previous proposals for education and public safety, will be presented to lawmakers in January, the governor said. Then, the General Assembly, which has a Republican supermajority, will return to Frankfort to consider the state’s biennial budget. 

“I know that we can agree on things that help our families and move our families ahead. In fact, we have done that on so many of these topics already,” Beshear said, adding that he has signed more than 600 bipartisan bills. 

The “Better Kentucky” proposal includes: 

Providing the state’s Cleaner Water Program with $500 million over two years. The program was previously allocated $500 million in federal funding. Allow the Office of Broadband Development to distribute funds from a $1.1 billion federal grant. The office would use an application process to award funds to previously unserved areas. Use $100 million over two years to renovate Kentucky’s career and technical education centers. Providing $10 million from the state’s General Fund to the Housing Corporation’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund across two years.Allocating dollars to finish ongoing infrastructure projects, such as giving $200 million to continue and speed up construction on the Mountain Parkway and Interstate 69 and use $50 million in grant funds to allow the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to administer repairs on county and city bridges. Setting aside $200 million across two years for the Kentucky Product Development Initiative to develop future economic sites. Providing $15 million in the first year of the next state budget to establish a globally competitive talent development system with a national marketing campaign and funding for regional campaigns to retain and recruit workforce talent. 

The governor said Kentucky’s revenue collections are outpacing previous months even with an income tax reduction and the current budget has a $1.55 billion surplus. 

“All of this is more than affordable, and we could put even more money into that rainy day fund,” Beshear said before voicing support for public school employee raises. 

In November, Kentucky voters will decide between Beshear and his Republican opponent, Attorney General Daniel Cameron.

Republican House Speaker David Osborne said in a statement after Beshear’s press conference that legislative discussions about the budget and 2024 agenda “began several months ago” and that the governor had not spoken with lawmakers about any of his proposals, a common critique GOP leaders have of Beshear.

“Kentuckians can expect their legislature to continue passing the same responsible, Kentucky-forward policies as we have since 2017 — regardless of who is in the Governor’s Mansion,” Osborne said. “These policies have created historic economic investment, record jobs, and surplus state revenue. They’ve also led to the state’s largest budget reserve trust in history — allowing us to invest in future opportunities and be prepared for economic challenges.”

Cameron highlighted his relationship with the legislature in a statement and called Beshear’s plan “empty promises.”

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