Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communications Office
Governor Ernie Fletcher Delivers State of the Commonwealth Address
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher delivered the State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the General Assembly in the House Chamber of the State Capitol, recounting the achievements and progress made in the Commonwealth over the last three years and outlining the priorities for 2007 and beyond.
“I am here to report that the state of the Commonwealth is much stronger and healthier than it was three years ago,” said Governor Fletcher.
“By creating an atmosphere of growth, we now have more people working than ever before,” said Governor Fletcher. “New companies are springing up all across the state and the country is now looking to Kentucky as an emerging biotech player.”
Governor Fletcher restated the financial difficulties the state faced when he took office and contrasted those hardships to the current sound fiscal state the Consensus Forecasting Group is projecting: $401 million in new revenue for the current budget cycle. The new projected revenue brings the total surplus of the last two budget cycles to more than $700 million.
The projected surplus provides “the opportunity to build an even stronger reserve fund and revisit unmet needs,” Governor Fletcher said. “We still have challenges that lie ahead in order to reach the goals that I have laid out for the next decade.”
Recognizing that this is not a traditional budget session, the Governor’s proposals acknowledged immediate health, safety and fiscal issues which, if not addressed now, could potentially adversely affect the lives of Kentuckians.
The Governor recommended dedicating no less than $50 million to the health care benefit component of the retirement plans for both state workers and teachers.
Governor Fletcher also recommended dedicating almost $150 million to the state’s budget reserve trust fund, bringing the total balance to approximately $386 million, the largest in state history.
The fund would amount to “more than a rainy-day fund,” said Governor Fletcher. “It also allows us to plan for initiatives in the budget session next year including major health care and education proposals.”
After recommending a majority of the funds to future needs, Fletcher affirmed that “our effort to run government effectively has created fiscal opportunities.”
The Governor identified several initiatives that will improve education. Those include:
- An additional $7 million in the Math Achievement Fund to bring Kentucky students math and science scores to the national average.
- Creating a plan to address the urgent needs for school facilities including rapid growth areas.
- $20 million in more needs-based assistance through the College Access Program to provide aid to an additional 11,800 Kentuckians.
While funding to the CAP program would provide help immediately, Governor Fletcher called on the legislature to work with the administration to create a covenant with every child and every family in Kentucky.
“I will call this promise the ‘Kentucky Covenant,’” said Governor Fletcher. “A pact that says if you work hard, get good grades and take rigorous courses, we will guarantee you an affordable college education here in this state regardless of your financial means.”
He went on to identify priorities in healthcare, economic development and public safety funding, including:
- Vaccinations for the Human Papilloma Virus, which leads to cervical cancer, for Kentuckians to choose
- The state’s progress in creating electronic medical records
- Services for vulnerable children
- An incentive package to maintain Ford jobs in Kentucky
- An energy package to encourage new, clean energy generation and conservation
- Conservation easement legislation to promote land conservation and public access
- To build on Kentucky’s growing high tech industry
- A drug interdiction proposal to stop illegal transportation of drugs and improve the seizure of funds of Drug Traffickers
- Rehabilitation services for Kentuckians struggling with substance abuse
- State support for financially struggling county jails
Governor Fletcher also called for legislation to protect social workers after the tragic killing of Boni Frederick and asked for financial support for a fitting memorial to the victims of the Flight 5191 plane crush.
Finally, Governor Fletcher outlined a number of initiatives he and members of the General Assembly proposed to honor and support the members of the military and veterans, and asked for their passage, including the income tax exemption for active, National Guard and reserve soldiers he announced on January 30th.
“Through cautious management, honest debate and by setting aside our political leanings, we have together turned Kentucky around,” said Governor Fletcher.
“We are encouraging growth, restoring hope and creating opportunity.”
text of Governor Fletcher’s State of the Commonwealth speech
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