Six months of Beshear (again): What’s he done?

Published 1:33 pm Saturday, June 22, 2024

Nearly every time he speaks, Gov. Andy Beshear shares that Kentucky is on its “biggest, best economic development win streak” in history.

Six months into his second term, that remains Beshear’s primary message to the people of the commonwealth.

At his second inauguration, Beshear made several promises. He told Kentuckians he would help create good paying jobs for every child. He said he would invest in educators. And he promised to build “what were thought to be impossible infrastructure projects” and bring high-speed internet to every home and business.

Beshear reaffirmed his commitment to recovery from natural disasters in the west and east, saying that he would be there to rebuild every tornado and flood-impacted home and life. Finally, he said he would try to alleviate political tensions.

“I will do my best every day to stop the fighting, to push away the division, to remind us that we have more that unites us that could ever pull us apart,” Beshear said at his inauguration.

So, what has he done to fulfill these promises?

Economic development

According to the 2023 Governor’s Cup rankings, Kentucky is third nationally in economic projects per capita. A major part of that is the state’s investment in electric vehicle technology.

Kentucky is on its way to becoming the electric vehicle battery capital of the world with several major EV battery plants locating here, including the world’s two largest in Glendale and one in Bowling Green.

In the past six months, there have been several electric vehicle related announcements. Overall, private sector investments in EV battery economic development projects total $11.7 billion in Kentucky.

In February, Toyota declared that it would increase its investment in EV vehicles to $1.3 billion at its Georgetown facility.

In May, the state awarded a third round of EV charging stations through federal funds. Now, there are 42 stations in the works using $27.2 million in federal dollars.

Beshear said he expects a charging station every 50 miles on all interstates and parkways in the coming years.

Also in May, Glendale’s BlueOval SK Battery Park opened its training center, which will prepare 5,000 workers for the plants. It’s not all good news, though.

Late last year, Ford Motor Company said that while construction will continue on both of Glendale’s battery plants, production in the second will be delayed due to a lack of demand for electric vehicles.

Beshear is unfazed. He said three factors need to come together before the anticipated growth will happen: more EV charger accessibility, cheaper electric vehicles and more American-made parts that can qualify for credits.

“I am convinced based on May sales, as well as all the information that is out there, that this is absolutely the future,” Beshear said.

In other economic development news, Beshear said he continues to fight for federal funding for the Mountain Parkway four-laning and I-69 crossing.

Natural disaster recovery

Kentucky continues to recover from 2021 tornadoes in the west and 2022 floods in the east.

Beshear has made a series of recent housing announcements in both regions.

Earlier this month, he shared that Kentucky Housing Corporation would build 953 affordable rental units in western Kentucky through a partnership with the administration.

“These are rentals, which was the hole in the rebuilding, especially in the west, because FEMA doesn’t cover rentals,” Beshear said.

In the east, Beshear announced seven high ground communities that will house at least 500 families. His administration partnered with Fahe to help flood victims apply for homeownership.

Education, political relationships

While Beshear promised to secure 11% across-the-board raises for Kentucky teachers and classified staff throughout his campaign, he did not succeed.

Lawmakers chose not to grant Beshear his wishes, although they did increase education funding to a lesser degree through the SEEK formula. School districts can use the funding to pay for raises, but the state funding increase alone was not enough to provide half of Beshear’s proposal in most school districts.

Despite this, Beshear said his relationship with the legislature has improved with more communication between the two branches of government.

“I believe that we worked together with the legislature in that last session to secure a lot of good things in that budget,” he said. “From a significant number of infrastructure projects that needed to be done to economic development to significantly increasing transportation funds for education, which has led so many school districts to give raises.”

Many members of the Republican legislature disagree, and criticize Beshear as taking credit for the fruits of their policy decisions.