Gov. Steve Beshear has pledged his allegiance to the coal industry that employs some 18,000 miners in Kentucky.
Beshear told lawmakers in his annual State of the Commonwealth speech on Tuesday that Washington bureaucrats are putting Kentucky’s manufacturing economy in jeopardy by stands they have taken against the coal that keeps the state’s electricty rates low.
In the speech delivered to a joint session of the General Assembly, Beshear said federal regulators have tried to impose arbitrary and unreasonable regulations on coal mining. He had a message for those regulators: “Get off our backs!”
Beshear received a standing ovation when he declared he would fight for Kentucky’s coal industry, which he said also provides the state with some of the lowest electricity rates in the nation, making the state attractive to manufacturers.
“But all that is in jeopardy because Washington bureaucrats continue to try to impose arbitrary and unreasonable regulations on the mining of coal,” he said. “To them I say: ‘Get off our backs!’”
Beshear also used his speech to encourage Kentuckians who have been struggling financially in a sour economy, declaring that things are looking up.
“The light that you see at the end of the tunnel is real, and we are moving closer to it,” Beshear said.
Kentucky has been hit hard by an economic recession that the Democratic governor said was born of greed on Wall Street and by reckless spending in Washington.
“ Now, difficult times are not over,” Beshear said. “ Many Kentuckians still need jobs, and I will not be satisfied until they have them. Creating jobs is slow work. It’s hard work. But there is no doubt that our efforts are gaining momentum.”
Beshear delivered the speech to a joint session of the House and Senate, winning applause when he described business expansions that he said are signs of a rebounding economy in a state where one in 10 workers are unemployed. New incentive programs have generated 248 business expansions since 2009, he said, creating 14,700 jobs and saving an additional 4,800 that would otherwise have been lost.
Running for re-election this year, the governor also recounted accomplishments of his first three years in office — things he’ll likely repeat on the campaign trail leading up to the November election. He has no Democratic primary opponent, but three Republicans are fighting for the right to face him in the general election. And an independent candidate has declared his intent to run.
Rural lawmakers acknowledged Beshear’s hard work to recruit and retain jobs in the state. Democratic Rep. Wilson Stone of Scottsville said tax incentives enacted under Beshear’s leadership clearly have saved and created jobs. But Repulbican Rep. David Floyd of Bardstown said the governor may have been a bit rosy in his description of the state’s economy.
“It’s good to be hopeful, but it’s also important to be realistic,” Floyd said. “And when you look at the overall numbers the picture is not good.”
With revenues falling incrementally by more than $1 billion since he took office in 2007, Beshear has had to balanced the budget eight times.