BY JOE RAGUSA KENTUCKY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Responding to Governor Andy Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address Tuesday night, Republican legislative leaders say they’re happy with the bipartisan tone, but they want to see more specifics about his agenda.
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said that includes items like criminal justice reform.
“I don’t think you start with the idea of, ‘We’re going to reduce prison population.’ I think you have to start with, ‘We’re going to make better policy for Kentuckians.’”
Republican leaders also want more details on how the Governor plans to raise revenue for some of his more ambitious proposals, like increased spending for education.
“The only thing he didn’t propose was puppies,” Osborne said. “And we might as well just go and throw those in because, again, it is great to throw out wonderful proposals and ideas, but at some point in time, we have to face the reality of how we’re going to manage those and how we’re going to actually fund them.”
Beshear touched on a couple of revenue-generating ideas: expanded casino gaming and sports betting.
“Right now, we are watching more than $500 million in gaming revenue go across the border to states like Indiana, Ohio, and Illinois,” Beshear said. “It’s time to stop that flow; To use that money for our needs.”
Osborne said there seems to be support for sports gaming in the House and the proposal will be heard in committee Wednesday.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he’s not sure what the future holds for that bill in the Senate.
“It’s not one of my priorities,” Stivers said. “I’m neither for or against it. I’m somewhat ambivalent. I think it generates some money, very little in the overall context of the budget.”
Democratic leaders said they were pleased with the Governor’s address.
“I think it was a very positive speech,” House Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, said. “I think it was a great way to start the session; To talk about all the areas that we have in common and that we agree on and we can go from there.
Senate Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, said he could not be more happy with Gov. Beshear.
“He knew he needed to set a bipartisan tone by advocating for the things we need in this state,” McGarvey said. “We need better wages. We need better healthcare. We need better education so that we can have the economy that takes this state forward for the next 10, 20, 30 years.”
Beshear is scheduled to outline more of his budget proposals in an address to the legislature January 28.