Last week, I spoke before the General Assembly and a live KET audience to deliver the State of the Commonwealth Address. If you missed the speech, you can view it on the Governor Matt Bevin Facebook page. Any such speech must cover a broad variety of topics and this address was certainly no exception. However, the overall takeaway from the speech was that the State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky should be a source of great optimism for Kentuckians.
There is no doubt that we face significant challenges including the pension crisis and the opioid epidemic that have plagued our state for years. Those challenges were presented to the Assembly and the audience with clarity and detail. I was straightforward that the solutions will require difficult decisions and bold leadership.
In the case of the pension system, I stated that the financial obligation and debt that has been allowed to accumulate is far greater than has been communicated by past administrations. The actual unfunded liability is $82 billion or roughly eight times our state's annual revenue.
Solutions to our problems cannot be developed unless we accurately identify their scope. Meaningful tax modernization must result in lower rates and a simpler and fairer system for all Kentuckians. There will be much discussion and debate on the part of our legislature before the "how" of tax modernization is fully defined.
I spent a great deal of time discussing a variety of exciting and beneficial things that are happening in Kentucky. We can be enthusiastic as Kentuckians about the accomplishments we have achieved over the past year and in the early session of 2017.
When I spoke about things like workforce development and improvements in our education system I wasn't only speaking about things that will help students or those who attend manufacturing training courses, I was talking about programs that will make our workforce an attractive resource for every business which, in turn, will grow our economy. When that occurs, all of Kentucky will benefit.
We become a better version of ourselves as a people when we give a second chance to non-violent felony offenders who have paid their debt to society. We become a greater place to live, with a greater sense of community, when we enhance our foster care system and adoption policies and when we protect the most vulnerable among us, the unborn.
When I spoke about the increased funding and efforts to maintain our parks, I was highlighting something that makes the quality of life better for Kentuckians from all walks of life. In addition, maintaining the natural beauty of our state and our park system by cleaning up after ourselves, attracts tourists who bring revenue into our commonwealth, again, benefitting all Kentuckians.
I was grateful to read the emails that our fellow Kentuckians took the time to write and send to my office. I was inspired by their passion for worthy causes and their willingness to not only register a complaint but to actually volunteer to participate in a solution. It was gratifying how many folks, regardless of political party, expressed areas of common ground with our administration and a willingness to work together.
The State of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is this: we are growing economically, hope is high, and opportunity is limitless. I am highly confident that we will meet the challenges before us. The work ethic and the values that built this state are still here in our people.
The fight, drive and determination that cleared the dense forests of this region and turned them into beautiful meadows where thoroughbreds graze, remains an integral part of our culture. The work ethic that ventured deep underground to provide coal that energized a nation, is woven into our people's DNA. During my first year in office, I have met thousands of Kentuckians who are amazingly generous, who have a servant's heart and a frontiersman's determination. Kentucky has resources and a location that you could not buy at any price. For all those reasons, we will overcome our challenges, we will become the North American hub of engineering and manufacturing excellence, and we will make Kentucky the economic crown jewel of the greatest nation on earth. We will do these things, because we are Kentucky!