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A year-end message from Kentucky's governor

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By The Staff

I ran for governor to better position Kentucky to compete in the future.

 And despite inheriting a budget mess and dealing with an historic national recession that is damaging our economy while limiting state government’s resources, my goals for Kentucky haven’t changed.

 When we emerge from this recession, Kentucky must emerge not shell-shocked and shattered but stronger than before.

That’s why, over the last year, I have vowed to not only act aggressively to help Kentucky families and businesses survive this crisis, but also, to find ways to move forward on long-range goals.

As I mark the end of my second year as governor, I want to point out some of the progress we’ve made.

Helping families:

Began a $2.9 million overhaul of the food stamp program to get aid to families quicker.

Expanded unemployment insurance benefits and created a task force to bring solvency to a program that – like those in most other states – has required us to borrow from the federal government.

Created a Web site to link families with assistance.

Created a Homeownership Protection Center to help families stay in their homes.

Public trust:

Changed the culture in the Transportation Cabinet with new rules, procedures and leadership.

Created the Kentucky Open Door program to show how tax dollars are spent.

Expanded one of the nation’s toughest ethics codes for the executive branch.

Leaner government:

Cut more than $800 million in state spending, shrinking the executive branch to its smallest size in two decades.

Reached across party lines to balance a $1 billion shortfall, the fifth time we’ve filled a budget shortfall, while preserving key areas of education, health care and public safety.

Began an array of initiatives to reduce energy costs.

Created a task force to rein in prison costs by improving drug treatment options and vocational training to help keep felons from returning to prison.

Jobs and economic opportunity:

Overhauled Kentucky’s tax incentives programs to add flexibility and focus on growing existing businesses, and leveraged those tools to create and retain jobs across the state.

Strategically used federal stimulus funds to save or create more than 4,200 jobs.

Attracted a national Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center to put Kentucky at the forefront of the push to develop a domestic supply of advanced battery technologies.

Distributed more than $18 million to 10 local workforce investment boards to generate training and employment opportunities.

Launched a Career Transitions program at community and technical colleges to retrain laid-off workers for high-growth, high-wage fields.

Brought $100 million in transportation and infrastructure to the region surrounding Fort Knox to prepare for a massive military realignment.

Worked with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to achieve tangible momentum in the effort to build new bridges across the Ohio River.

Health care:

Brought health coverage to 36,000 children who were previously uncovered.

Helped needy Kentuckians secure $10.5 million worth of prescription drugs.

Launched a ground-breaking initiative to improve the oral health of children in Eastern Kentucky.

Education:

Preserved the basic funding formula for classroom spending by strategic use of federal stimulus funding.

Launched Transforming Education in Kentucky, an initiative designed to re-energize public support for education while tying together efforts to improve curriculum, dropout rates, graduation rates and teacher retention.

Helped hold down tuition rates while creating a long-term plan to improve affordability and access to higher education.

Established a task force designed to streamline and strengthen early childhood development and education programs.

But let me be clear:

This is just a start. We are not satisfied.

We must continue to move forward, despite the recession and despite a pending budget that will be the most difficult one yet to balance.

I will continue to reach out to both parties to find the answers.  When I ran for governor, I said I would judge ideas not on whether they were “Democratic ideas” or “Republican ideas” but on whether they were ideas good for Kentucky.  I’ve governed with that philosophy, and I will continue to do so.

Our problems are not Democratic problems or Republican problems, they are Kentucky problems and we must solve them together as Kentuckians.

 Steve Beshear

Kentucky Governor