FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Short-term pain, with long-term gain, is how Gov. Matt Bevin describes Kentucky’s future.
During an interview with Kentucky Today, the governor said 2018 will be comprised of financially related issues, especially pensions, the budget and taxes, which he calls directly or indirectly linked to one another.
“We’ve got to pass pension reform, because it will very much affect our budget and our budgeting process,” he said. “We’re going to have to find billions of dollars, on top of the billion plus that we put in previously each year for our pensions. Where’s this money going to come from?”
Bevin says he’s confident that despite the furor surrounding the sexual harassment scandal in the House, they’ll be able to get the job done.
“Is there distraction? Sure. Is there noise? Yes. Are there some behaving in ways and responding to their behavior in ways that are distracting? Yes, there are, but this too shall pass, and we’ll get the work done.”
Bevin says they are very close to a pension bill which will be presented to lawmakers. But will it be done before he delivers his budget address on Jan. 16?
“I would hope so, but I don’t dictate the schedule of things in the legislature,” he said. “I know in speaking to [Speaker Pro Tem] David Osborne and other leaders in the House, speaking to [President] Robert Stivers and other leaders in the Senate, it is a top priority for them. Something they all want to get done and put behind us as well.”
While not wishing to divulge the content of his budget address to the General Assembly, Bevin said, “I think you’re going to see a realistic budget, one that for the first time in a long time encapsulates the true cost of doing business in Kentucky. And it won’t be as pretty as people would like.
“I think what you can expect is a very truthful, realistic budget, that will be sobering for many people. It will also focus where there is the greatest need.”
Bevin also indicated that those who have been exempt from cuts in the past will not be over the next two years.
He knows no one wants to deal with spending cuts, and compared it to the story of the Little Red Hen.
“Nobody wants to plant the wheat, nobody wants to tend it, nobody wants to harvest it, nobody wants to grind it, nobody wants to bake it, but everybody would like a fresh slice of hot bread. But it doesn’t work that way.”
Bevin describes it as a shared sacrifice, and Kentucky will be better for it in the end.
The state had a record $9.2 billion in economic investment in 2017, but the governor says it will take time before the benefits start rolling in.
“Some of it will start before then, but by the time those seeds have really germinated, those workers are working and the payroll taxes are being received, it will be two, three, four years,” he said.
He cited Braidy Industries, which is coming to Northeast Kentucky, as an example. “The cost of building a big aluminum mill, for example. Yes, they’re going to spend $1.3 billion, yes, there will be a thousand construction workers starting this spring. Yes, they’re already spending money for their headquarters building. But the plant won’t start production until 2020.”
He says the record set in 2017 is not an anomaly. “Was it a great year? Yes. Is there any guarantee we’ll have another year like it? No. Is it very possible? Yes. And we have billions of dollars worth of possibilities in the hopper. We’ll see how many of them come to fruition anywhere, let alone Kentucky. But I’m confident we’ll get more than our share, because we’re out there hustling.”
Bevin says he will do his State of the Commonwealth and Budget address together on Jan. 16.
He also saluted the hard work and stability of his Cabinet. “How many administrations, in a party that has been out of favor for most of the last 100 years, puts together from scratch a group of individuals, all of whom are still at the helm, working hard, enjoying each other’s company and making great progress, two years into that endeavor? It’s almost unheard of.”
Bevin also says he expects the Medicaid waiver to be granted very soon. “It will transform entitlements in America like we have not seen since the mid-1990s,” he said. “Transforming Medicaid is going to be something that is very powerful for Kentucky, and for the health of our people. Flexibility in getting people engaged in their own health outcomes, and the fact this will serve as a model for the rest of America. Kentucky is becoming a leader in terms of policy in the United States, and I’m grateful to be involved in that.”
He urged Kentuckians to enter 2018 realistic, but optimistic. “The long-term upside for our state is as bright as it has ever been, and perhaps brighter than any state in America.”
Bevin’s Budget and State of the Commonwealth Address will be broadcast live across the state on KET.