FRANKFORT — Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear repeated his call for unity among all sides Tuesday evening during his first State of the Commonwealth Address in his new position.
The former Kentucky attorney general who won a bitter battle with Republican Gov. Matt Bevin in the November general election extended this call one day after a speech in Murray had asked Democrats and Republicans alike to join together in tackling state issues. The Democrat was in Murray Monday to announce a $500,000 grant that will go toward the construction of a new fire station in the city on a day he made similar announcements in three other western Kentucky communities.
Standing inside the Kentucky State Capitol Tuesday, Beshear said divisive politics have no place right now.
“We, in this capital and around Kentucky, are responsible for using the power and privilege of office to do right by Kentuckians, to focus our energy not on partisan squabbles but on working together to figure out how to better the commonwealth we all love so dearly,” Beshear said during his speech inside the Kentucky State Capitol Tuesday night. “And let me be clear: every moment we focus on partisanship, every moment we focus on national divisions, we fail to address the reality before us.”
Beshear pointed to the actions of his first month in office: he rescinded the Medicaid waiver that would have kicked 100,000 people off of their health care coverage; stopped more than $8 billion in managed care contracts, rushed through just days before he took office; began waiving fees for those who cannot afford to take the GED; built a diverse cabinet and team; and restored voting rights for 140,000 Kentuckians who committed nonviolent felonies. He also called for:
• Passing a law to ensure no one can lose health care coverage because of a preexisting condition
• Fully funding pension obligations.
• Passage of bipartisan proposal curbing the cost of insulin.
• Ending surprise medical bills that can financially devastate families.
• Defeating pharmaceutical companies and require every dollar from these companies go toward ending the opioid epidemic.
• Criminal justice reform to end the state’s high incarceration rate that hurts our budget and our communities
He also emphasized his commitment to speeding up the Mountain Parkway project in eastern Kentucky and building the I-69 bridge to open up western Kentucky.
Kentucky 1st District state Sen. Stan Humphries (R-Cadiz) said Wednesday that he is having a problem trying to understand how some things in Beshear’s agenda are going to be financed. However, he did say that he believes it is possible for a Democrat in the Kentucky Governor’s Mansion to work with a Kentucky General Assembly with Republican majorities in both chambers.
“I think the majorities want to work with Gov. Beshear, but we’re not going to take back steps on things we’ve already accomplished. Our priorities, agenda and goal is to see Kentucky in a better place than it’s been,” Humphries said. “You know what? We want him to be successful. Our goal is not for him to be unsuccessful, but we have our priorities and our vision of Kentucky.”
Humphries did acknowledge Beshear’s claim in Murray Monday that he has been talking with leaders of the GOP-led chambers, confirming that the governor did attend a Senate leadership breakfast led by Senate President Robert Stivers (R- Manchester). He did say that he has not had the chance to meet with Beshear one-on-one yet, but hopes that chance will arise soon.
Kentucky 5th District state Rep. Larry Elkins (R-Murray) said Wednesday that he does not see any reason why Beshear and the two chambers cannot have a workable relationship.
“In most cases, a workable relationship doesn’t mean you’re going to agree on everything, or most (things), but you just target on things you do agree on. Sometimes, that means making compromises in order to get some things done,” Elkins said, stopping short of fully going all in with Beshear’s call for unity.
“That’s what he’s saying now, but time will tell whether that’s what his intentions are, or whether they’re just talk.”