"With unemployment at over 10%, we can ill afford to lose any industry."
I spoke with Governor Beshear on Friday evening and asked him about the Senate A & R Committee’s move that day to remove the state employee furloughs from the budget bill the House passed. I wondered what effect it would have on his overall budget.
The Governor replied, “It was $11 million dollars and if they decided to go in a different direction, hopefully, they came up with some way to fill that hole.”
He went on to say that, “Obviously, our state employees are hard working people and it would be a sacrifice. The only reason I talk about it is I am trying to avoid mass layoffs. Many other states are laying off thousands of people every day and I don’t want that to happen to our folks. I’ll work with the House and Senate and we’ll come up with a way to come up with 11 million dollars to fill that gap.”
What is the next step if the racing bill fails to pass in the special session?
He said “my biggest concern is the 100,000 Kentuckians who make their living in this industry. A lot of them are working hard to put roofs over their heads, food on the table and send their kids to school. I am concerned if we don’t provide our tracks with an even playing field, we’re going to lose this industry. With unemployment at over 10%, we can ill afford to lose any industry.”
And before Hal Kemp dragged me away from the Governor so the program could get started, I got in one final question on the slots bill. What’s in it for us in the Purchase?
“Part of the money generated by this bill will go to renovate schools all across the state, including here in the Purchase. It would go to up the per pupil spending in all the schools.”
In his keynote address, Beshear told the crowd that he had not forgotten his campaign promise to remember West Kentucky. He joked that people like him from Princeton thought they were from West Kentucky until someone from the Purchase says, "Cross the lakes, then you're in God's country." He told the crowd that construction on Highway 80 and the bridges over the lakes were a high priority. He told the crowd that "Make no mistake. Without the stimulus package, Kentucky would be in dire straits." Regarding the present economic ills, he said, "We will get through this."
Beshear compared this time to the winter ice storm. He said it took two days for him to be able to get into Paducah by helicopter - which slid on the ice as it was landing. When he arrived, he found local officials and residents hard at work. "That's what we do." the Governor said. "We take care of our families, our friends and our community."