12/11/2023 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 12/11/2023 16:39
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 11, 2023) - Ahead of tomorrow's 62nd gubernatorial inauguration, Gov. Andy Beshear reflected on his record-breaking first term that led to many firsts for Kentucky and pledged to continue to set politics aside, lead by example and keep working hard to move the state forward.
"Since day one, we have been laser-focused on helping our families and communities thrive while growing our economy and creating good-paying jobs," said Gov. Beshear. "The hard work is paying off, and I look forward to having four more years to turn our progress into decades of prosperity."
Over the past four years, Gov. Beshear and his administration set a high-speed pace and accomplished major things for Kentucky families and communities, including:
Secured the Best Four-Year Period for Economic Development Investments
The past four years have been the best in Kentucky's history for new private-sector investments, with $28.5 billion announced by Gov. Beshear since December 2019. This is the highest investment figure for any governor in state history. Gov. Beshear also has announced more than 940 private-sector new-location and expansion projects, creating 50,505 jobs.
According to the Cabinet for Economic Development, since 2021, Kentucky's average incentivized wage before benefits topped $24 per hour for three consecutive years for the first time, with the 2022 and 2023 figures coming in at $26.87 and $26.67, respectively.
Landed the Largest Economic Development Projects in State History
Gov. Beshear announced the two largest economic development projects in state history. In September 2021, the Governor and leaders from Ford Motor Co. and SK On celebrated a transformative $5.8 billion investment that will create 5,000 jobs in Hardin County. In April 2022, the Governor was joined by leadership at AESC to announce a $2 billion investment that will create 2,000 jobs in Warren County. These announcements solidify Kentucky as the EV battery production capital of the United States.
Record-breaking projects are occurring throughout the commonwealth, including the single largest investment in Western Kentucky with the nearly $1 billion investment in high-tech battery recycling and production by Ascend Elements that is bringing 400 jobs to Christian County. Pratt Industries opened the cleanest, greenest recycled paper mill in Henderson. And just last week, Provalus - a division of prominent information technology Optomi - announced the biggest project in 13 years in Wayne County, a $3 million investment creating 200 full-time jobs in Monticello.
Secured Record Low Unemployment
This year, Gov. Beshear announced that Kentucky set the record for the longest period with the lowest unemployment rates in state history. The Governor also has supported the state's workforce by expanding apprenticeships in fields including health care, advanced manufacturing, construction, hospitality and education. He also launched and expanded the Everybody Counts initiative to help more graduating seniors find a good-job, pursue higher education or both.
Best-Ever Year for the Tourism and Bourbon Industries
In August of this year, Gov. Beshear declared that 2022 was the best year on record for Kentucky tourism, with $12.9 billion generated in economic impact and 91,668 jobs. According to Tourism Economics, 75.9 million travelers visited Kentucky in 2022, spending a total of $8.9 billion across the commonwealth. This generated over $937 million in state and local taxes, resulting in a $536 tax savings for each Kentucky household. Total visitation reached 103% of 2019 volumes, and visitor spending reached 112%. The 2022 figures surpassed the previous record of $11.8 billion in economic impact in 2019.
Gov. Beshear also announced that the state broke an all-time record in 2023 with nine new tourism development projects that are set to generate an estimated $301.2 million in economic investment. These projects are also expected to create 628 jobs once operational.
The state's bourbon and spirits industry also recorded its best year for growth in 2022, with over $2.1 billion in new investments and approximately 700 new jobs for Kentucky residents. Since the start of the administration, Gov. Beshear has announced 96 new-location and expansion projects within the bourbon and spirits sector, contributing to over $3.6 billion in new investments and more than 1,650 full-time jobs for Kentuckians.
Moved Mega Infrastructure Projects Forward
The Governor has gotten major infrastructure projects moving that many said would never happen or had been talked about for decades. He worked to secure record funding to help build the Brent Spence Bridge companion bridge with no tolls. For the first time ever, each section of the four-lane Mountain Parkway is either complete, under construction or under contract, and the I-69 project is moving forward.
Gov. Beshear has also moved forward with many critical regional projects like the work done on Kentucky Highway 30 from Booneville to London; the Minnie-to-Harold Connector in Floyd County; the opening of a new Spottsville bridge; the opening of the Gallatin County Regional Airport; and dozens of local projects. To date, the administration has also provided more than $118 million in discretionary funds to fix roads and bridges in all 120 counties. And he has invested another $197 million in 235 road safety projects, many focused on improving safety around our schools.
The Governor also secured the largest investment in high-speed internet in state history to provide reliable, affordable access to every home and business in the commonwealth. Through a bipartisan agreement with lawmakers, $500 million in federal dollars have also gone to provide many families with clean drinking water for the first time.
"Clean drinking water is a basic human right," Gov. Beshear said. "These investments are a win-win. They create great new construction jobs and make life safer and easier for families and businesses across the commonwealth."
Building New Homes in Western and Eastern Kentucky
To date, combined, more than $1 billion in state and federal disaster relief has gone to help rebuild Western Kentucky following the tornadoes and Eastern Kentucky following the floods. In both regions, the Governor set a goal to use donated relief dollars to build and repair homes.
With the support of Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, Gov. Beshear set a goal to construct or repair 300 homes for tornado survivors. Over halfway toward that goal, more than 155 home-building projects are completed, under construction or approved to start construction in nine Western Kentucky counties.
Housing efforts in Eastern Kentucky following the July 2022 floods include seven high-ground communities that will be home to at least 500 families with support from the Team Eastern Kentucky Flood Relief Fund. In addition, more than $3.6 million from the fund has been committed to nonprofits currently building and repairing individual homes. To date, the fund has provided over $1 million for 14 homes in Breathitt, Martin, Owsley, Knott, Perry and Letcher counties.
Recently, Gov. Beshear visited Western Kentucky to mark the two-year anniversary of the storms and dedicate 10 new homes. There, Mayfield resident and new homeowner Jennifer Harkness shared her story of recovery and hope.
"As a tornado and flood survivor, my family and I are thankful for this home as it brings peace and protection to our lives. The last couple years have been tough, not only financially but emotionally as well. The opportunity for a forever home will help comfort and bring relief to our family as we continue to heal from our experience. We are grateful to the ones who have donated to make our family and so many others a place to call home after much loss. After all, the ultimate luxury is being able to relax and enjoy your home," said Harkness.
Boosted Public Safety and Supported Law Enforcement
The Governor believes every single Kentuckian has the right to feel safe in their community, workplaces and schools, and he has taken steps to increase public safety. Just in the last two years, his administration has secured a historic more than $18,000 pay increase for Kentucky State Police (KSP) troopers and officers. Due to these increases and the tireless efforts from the KSP recruitment branch, 1,007 troopers are now wearing the badge of honor, the highest number since 2017.
Gov. Beshear has also supported training for local law enforcement officers by raising the current training stipend to an all-time high, and the state supported the construction of a new training facility in Richmond.
Drug Overdose Deaths Drop, Treatment Beds Increase
In April of this year, Gov. Beshear announced that Kentucky's drug overdose deaths declined by 5% in 2022 compared with 2021, marking the first decline since 2018. Kentucky was only one of eight states that saw a significant decrease, while the nation saw an uptick in deaths.
Kentucky is also leading the way in providing treatment services to Kentuckians through the state's Treatment Access Program, which allows those without health insurance to enter residential treatment, and by creating Recovery Ready Communities, expanding health care coverage and increasing treatment beds. According to the National Substance Use and Mental Health Services Survey 2022, Kentucky ranks No. 1 for per capita residential substance-use disorder treatment beds.
Following the implementation of new workforce programs for those leaving incarceration and establishing the highest number of corrections-based addiction treatment beds, the state also announced the lowest recidivism rate in history.
Expanded Access to Health Care
The Governor protected health care access for nearly 100,000 Kentuckians by removing governmental roadblocks, and relaunched and expanded the state insurance marketplace, kynect. He expanded Medicaid coverage for new mothers, boosted our workforce by adding dental, vision and hearing coverage, and helped cap the cost of insulin. The state is also seeing health care industry growth all over the commonwealth, including the first hospital in West Louisville to open in 150 years.
Gov. Beshear also believes mental health should be treated the same as physical health. The Governor launched the 988 crisis hotline, which connects Kentuckians facing a risk of suicide, mental health distress or an addiction crisis to compassionate and trained counselors who can help. To date, 988 has received over 52,000 calls, 14,000 text messages and 12,000 online chats from Kentuckians.
Invested in Public-Education
The Governor raised the elementary and secondary education funding per pupil by 7.5%, the most since 2008, and supported the biggest increase in postsecondary education since before the Great Recession. He has also worked hard to protect educator pensions, secured modest raises, signed legislation that funds full-day kindergarten and invested over $250 million in career and technical education. While gains have been made, Gov. Beshear is proposing an 11% pay raise for all public school employees in his Forward, Together budget proposal, so that every Kentucky child has a teacher in their classroom and Kentucky can remain competitive with other states. The proposal that will come before lawmakers in January also calls for funding universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds to ensure that every child is kindergarten-ready.
Worked with Lawmakers to Pass Historic Legislation, Signed 627 Bipartisan Bills
From sports betting and medical cannabis, to expanding early voting and income tax relief, Gov. Beshear worked with lawmakers to make historic progress on changes Kentuckians wanted.
A long-time champion of legalizing sports wagering in Kentucky, the Governor made good on his promise to make sports betting a reality. Retail sportsbooks opened on Sept. 7, 2023, and mobile sportsbooks opened on Sept. 28. As of Dec.7, more than $656 million had been wagered in Kentucky on sporting events through retail sportsbooks and mobile applications, an average total of over $65 million a week. Through October reporting, the state has collected nearly $8 million in tax revenue, exceeding expectations.
"This is an incredible start, and if this trend holds true, we will significantly exceed the $23 million projected revenue from sports wagering," said Gov. Beshear. "This frees up money for the General Fund that can be used to that can be used for other important Kentucky projects and initiatives, and that's a win-win for the whole state."
Record Funds for Appalachian Region
Under Gov. Beshear's leadership, Kentucky received a record $47.7 million in grant assistance from the Area Development Program of the Appalachian Regional Commission in fiscal year 2023 to support economic opportunity and job training through 44 projects across the Appalachian region. This is the most funding the ARC has ever granted to a state in a single year from the program. For a list of projects click here.
Fully Funded Public Employee Pensions
During his term, the Governor has fully funded state employee pensions, and signed budgets that made extra payments to reduce the unfunded liability. He also got Executive Branch public servants a combined 14% pay increase over the past two years, this was their first significant pay-rase in a more than a decade.
Secured the Largest Rainy Day Fund and General Fund Surplus in State History
Over the years, Gov. Beshear has been a responsible steward of Kentuckians' dollars. He secured the largest Rainy Day Fund and General Fund surplus in state history. The General Fund budget surplus at the end of fiscal year 2023 was more than $1.55 billion. Nearly all of the $1.55 billion surplus went into the commonwealth's Rainy Day Fund, bringing the fund to a record balance of $3.7 billion - a 2,700% increase since Gov. Beshear took office in 2019.
Gov. Beshear has also reported that General Fund receipts for November 2023 totaled over $1 billion, marking the 15th straight month with revenues over $1 billion.
Financial Outlook Boosted for First Time
Some of the state's toughest critics - credit rating agencies - have recognized the administration's strong fiscal management and upgraded the state's financial outlook. In May, Gov. Beshear helped secure the first-ever state-level credit rating upgrade from Fitch Ratings in 13 years, and in June S&P Global Ratings upgraded Kentucky for the first-time. In addition, Moody's Investors Service upgraded Kentucky's credit outlook from stable to positive.
"The increased confidence in Kentucky's financial outlook means lower costs for taxpayers on the state's investments in critical infrastructure projects, like roads, bridges and schools," Gov. Beshear said. "It also means that public employee pensions are more secure."
Tomorrow, Gov. Beshear will be officially sworn in for a second term and deliver his inaugural message at 2 p.m. on KET. For more information on the day's events and how to watch, visit Kentucky.gov/inauguration.