Governor talks pay raises, body cameras among many budget priorities
Tornado relief legislation, COVID-19 cases and blood donations and more were part of Thursday's 'Team Kentucky' update
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/AP) – Governor Andy Beshear on Thursday signed House Bill 5, which is the tornado relief legislation that just passed in the General Assembly session. The measure provides an immediate infusion of aid for schools and people left homeless by last month’s deadly storms. The relief measure includes $200 million of assistance. The bill will pump an initial $45 million into communities, with $15 million for temporary housing and $30 million for schools. More aid will be allocated later.
“It was my first priority during this session to get aid to Kentuckians impacted by the deadly tornadoes, and while more will be needed, today I am proud to sign this bill,” Gov. Beshear said. “I want every family and community touched by these storms to know that we are with you, all of Kentucky is with you – today, tomorrow and however long it takes until we rebuild every structure, every life.”
Rep. Richard Heath, sponsor of HB 5 who represents Graves County and part of McCracken County, said: “This shows the bipartisan effort that’s needed. We all know that natural disasters does not know the difference between Democrat and Republican.”
Sen. Mike Wilson, who represents Warren County and sponsored identical legislation in the Senate, said: “We first heard – on a call from the Governor – the needs, as we also talked with our area judge/executives and city mayors and on the ground, FEMA was there almost immediately. But our Emergency Management folks were so critical in all of this. This is just the first allocation of that fund. There will be more after we figure out what the immediate needs are.”
The governor also discussed his final budget priorities, including endorsing a historic 6% pay increase for state employees. Kentucky State Police troopers, sworn officers and telecommunicators, would also receive a raise. The governor’s budget also funds body cameras for state police for the first time ever. The governor is also supporting the state prosecutor network to help enhance victim services, including the implementation of Marsy’s Law, as well as address case backlogs and additional workload due to recent legislative changes.
The governor is funding efforts to retain correctional officers, juvenile justice youth workers and social workers.
The governor’s budget adds 350 social workers to help address staffing shortages and reduce the average caseload by nearly 25%. To attract and retain more social workers, the governor is funding a loan forgiveness program to provide a maximum $3,000 a year for each year of employment as a social service worker with the Department for Community Based Services.
The governor’s budget restores the Commission on Women, restores funding to the Commission on Human Rights and reinstates the Office of Minority Empowerment. The governor is also returning 100% of coal severance funds to coal counties and creating a $100 million Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.
“This is a budget built on the values we as Kentuckians live by. Now is the time to invest in our people,” said Gov. Beshear. “Whether it’s public safety, our state employees, education or our economic future, my budget makes the bold investments we need to move our commonwealth forward.”
To learn more about the governor’s budget priorities, including a $2 billion investment in pre-K–12 education; creating and attracting the jobs of the future, while readying our workforce; and expanding Kentuckians’ health care and supporting the most vulnerable, see this week’s press releases.
The governor also gave a COVID-19 update.
The number of people who have received at least one vaccine dose in Kentucky: 2,813,659
Number of people who have received a booster vaccination in Kentucky: 936,060
The governor said 63% of all Kentuckians have received at least their first dose, as well as 67% of Kentuckians ages 5 and older and 74% of all Kentucky adults.
Earlier this week Gov. Beshear announced aluminum producer and recycler Novelis will move forward with a Phase 2 expansion. In October, the company opened an operation in Todd County with a roughly $365 million investment to construct a new recycling center that will create 140 well-paying jobs for local residents. To learn more, see the full release.
Earlier Thursday, Gov. Beshear and Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey announced that an additional $849,491 in grant funding from the federal government to expand the Kentucky State Police Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Investigative Team. The funds will help hire an additional investigator to focus their efforts on the Louisville-Jefferson County region. To learn more, see the full release.
The governor said the state and nation are experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade. The dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery, including organ transplants.
In December, the Governor gave blood in the Capitol Rotunda along with Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman and other state leaders. Today, he thanked another Kentuckian who are bringing attention to this issue: Miss USA and a former Team Kentucky All-Star, Elle Smith, who gave blood and encouraged donations last week.
“We desperately need more folks to sign up and donate. You could save a life,” said Gov. Beshear. “Elle, thanks for stepping up again to serve your community.”
Sign up now at RedCrossBlood.org.
Today, Gov. Beshear honored two groups of Team Kentucky All-Stars, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and Shop Local KY, that contributed to the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to help impacted families honor the loved ones they lost and begin to rebuild their lives.
KDA donated $3.4 million dollars, the largest donation to date, and Shop Local KY raised more than $400,000 through the sale of “Kentucky Strong” T-shirts.
“KDA, you’ve stepped up so many times during the pandemic to help keep our communities safe. This is just the newest way you’ve shown that a signature industry in Kentucky will always be there for Kentucky,” said Gov. Beshear. “Shop Local KY reminded us that Kentucky is strong because our people are strong. No pandemic, and no natural disaster, will ever change that.”