Our future is now. It is time to make bold investments so we can move our state forward – not right, not left, but forward. And we can move forward because Kentuckians are strong and resilient. No tornado, ice storm, flood or even a pandemic can break us.
I shared these messages with Kentuckians in both my state of the commonwealth and budget addresses this month.
Even through our trials, we can be hopeful about our future because we shattered every economic development record in the books last year, attracting a record $11.2 billion in private-sector investments and creating more than 18,000 quality jobs. We have more than $1 billion in federal dollars waiting to be deployed. And through sound fiscal management, we set two all-time records: a $1.9 billion budget surplus and the largest rainy day fund ever, all while fully funding our pension systems.
With this unique opportunity, there is no reason not to invest – for the next generation, for my kids and yours – and my recommended executive branch budget does that.
We start with education. If we want to continue to attract world-class companies, we must provide a world-class public education system.
My budget adds record funding – nearly $2 billion more than the last budget – to pre-K through high school education, starting with universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten for every Kentucky child – for the first time ever!
We increase funding per student and increase transportation funding by 81%. School personnel will get a minimum 5% raise, so we start paying them closer to what they’re worth. And we give higher education its largest funding boost in decades, helping more students earn their degrees.
This is more important than ever as Kentucky takes its place as a global leader. Last year, we landed the largest economic development project in our history. Ford and its partner, SK Innovation, announced the BlueOvalSK Battery Park, a nearly $6 billion investment creating 5,000 jobs.
Other major corporations – including Toyota, Amazon, Pratt, GE Appliances, Fidelity Investments, Kruger Packaging, Ahlstrom-Munksjo, Crown, Firestone, T. Marzetti and Novelis – are betting their futures on us, too. That is why my budget dedicates $250 million for a Site Identification and Development program to help every region prepare to welcome our next major company.
Kentucky is also attracting emerging industries. We’re poised to become the nation’s agritech capital, so my budget invests $75 million to support a state-of-the-art agritech research and development center in the heart of Eastern Kentucky.
With Kentucky’s economy booming, we must keep improving crucial infrastructure, four-laning the Mountain Parkway, building the I-69 bridge and charting the path for a toll-free Brent Spence companion bridge – all while expanding high-speed internet and clean drinking water systems across the commonwealth.
A budget is a values statement, and mine leads with our shared Kentucky values of family, faith and commitment to one another.
That is why we are ensuring access to high-quality, affordable health care – a basic human right. My budget fully funds Medicaid and Medicaid expansion, which provides coverage to more than 660,000 Kentucky children. We also take care of the most vulnerable, providing funding to protect children and families and to support nursing homes, seniors, veterans, mental health services and childhood cancer research.
To improve public safety and retention, my budget increases state troopers’ and telecommunicators’ salaries and funds body cameras for state troopers for the first time. It adds 350 more social workers to help reduce caseloads and endorses a 6% pay raise, effective May 1, for our incredible state workers.
And we don’t forget about our families still grieving after the deadly tornadoes or COVID-19. We provide funds to help Western Kentucky communities and schools rebuild and speed up medium-term housing for those who lost everything. We’re also saving Kentucky lives by getting more folks vaccinated and boosted.
These are the bold investment needed right now to help us heal, overcome and move our state forward in this historic moment.
Our time is here. Our future is now.
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