Gov. Beshear gives updates on economy, tornado impact, and COVID
KENTUCKY (WFIE) - Gov. Andy Beshear gave updates on several topics Thursday.
Among his updates, Governor Beshear announced leaders at Accuride Corp., a manufacturer of wheels, wheel ends and braking components for commercial and passenger vehicles, are investing in the company’s Henderson County facility with a $2 million commitment, creating 15 well-paying jobs for Kentucky residents.
Decrease in Gas Prices:
Beshear shared good news with Kentuckians, as U.S. gas prices have seen nearly a 50-cent drop over the last month, with a 4-cent-per-gallon drop since just yesterday in Kentucky. The average price for gas in Kentucky is 32 cents lower than the national average of $4.605 at $4.285, according to AAA.
The Governor highlighted the average price drops over the past month in several areas, including 57 cents in Henderson and 70 cents in Owensboro.
While prices are still higher than usual, the Governor shared a story from John Hicks, the current state budget director and incoming executive cabinet secretary, that stuck with him: “‘When you watch inflation, it’s like a rocket coming up and a feather coming down.’ We’re certainly seeing that in a couple of areas, including gas prices, as those prices start to decrease. While these silver linings can give us hope, we must still acknowledge these are tough times. This is why my administration is committed to doing everything we can to help Kentuckians save money.”
State Real Property Tax Decrease:
In more positive news for Kentuckians, Gov. Beshear shared that the state real property tax rate has decreased, dropping from 11.9 cents to 11.5 cents per $100 assessed value. The Kentucky Department of Revenue is required by statute to set the real property tax rate each year by July 1. This is the second annual decrease in the real property tax rate – the only two years the rate has decreased since 2008.
The Governor said, “I want Kentuckians to know, we’re watching and we know the property you own has gone up in value. That’s why we’ve cut the state property tax rate for real estate to try to help out. To ensure your bill isn’t going up significantly and hopefully, for many of you, it is in fact going down.”
The drop in the state rate may also help mitigate an increase by other local taxing districts.
Highest Annual Growth Rate in 31 Years:
Gov. Beshear said that Kentucky’s record-breaking economic momentum continues this week as the state’s fiscal year 2022 General Fund receipts grew at the highest rate in 31 years. On Monday, the Office of State Budget Director reported 14.6% growth over last year and noted that General Fund receipts totaled $14.7 billion, exceeding the budgeted estimate by $945.4 million. This is the second-highest revenue surplus ever – surpassed only by last year’s record amount – and the budget surplus is expected to be even higher once the books are closed on spending later this month.
“We’re seeing more jobs and better wages for Kentuckians, which allow more people to put food on the table and live the lives they want and deserve,” Gov. Beshear said.
The Governor also noted that, once the books are closed later this month, the state’s Rainy Day fund is expected to reach almost $2.7 billion. When Gov. Beshear took office, that fund was at $129 million.
Helping Kentuckians Save:
Gov. Beshear continued to share resources for Kentuckians across the commonwealth to save money. Two new recourses the Governor added are the Kentucky Prescription Assistance Program and a resource to help with Medicare Prescription Drug Plan costs.
The Governor also announced a one-stop website where individuals can access all the resources at governor.ky.gov/tipstosave.
Gov. Beshear Announces Additional $12 Million for Western Kentuckians:
The Governor announced an additional $12 million from the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund to assist individuals impacted by the December 2021 tornadoes with specific unmet needs. This assistance is targeted at long-term recovery and will be managed with the assistance of local long-term recovery groups (LTRGs).
Eleven local LTRGs sought assistance from the fund. They will collect and evaluate the needs of their community members and submit individuals’ needs to the Public Protection Cabinet. This collaboration will ensure that funding efforts are not duplicated and that those still in need of life essentials are getting assistance. Survivors wishing to apply for this assistance can contact their local LTRG. Contact information is available here.
988 Suicide and Mental Health Crisis Lifeline:
Gov. Beshear said this upcoming weekend, Saturday, July 16, the easy-to-remember three-digit mental health crisis hotline, 988, will operationally launch in the commonwealth.
The move is part of a nationwide departure away from the 10-digit National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 800-273-8255, which remains available during the changeover to help those in need.
The 988 number will soon connect Kentuckians facing thoughts of suicide, mental health distress or an addiction crisis with compassionate and trained counselors who can help. The lifeline is available 24/7 and councilors respond to calls, chats or text messages from those seeking help as well as from Kentuckians who are concerned about a loved one who may need crisis support.
The Governor said that the state has been working diligently to implement the new number, which has been called the “911 of mental health.”
“My administration has always prioritized mental health the same as physical health,” Gov. Beshear said. “And with the launch of 988, we have made it easier for Kentuckians to reach out and get the assistance they need and deserve.”
The Governor plans to join mental health partners at a news conference Monday at the Capitol to officially launch 988.
Governor and First Lady Celebrate Christmas in July with Tornado-Impacted Families:
Gov. Beshear said this week marks seven months since the historic December tornadoes that killed 81 Kentuckians and caused serious destruction in communities across 200 miles.
“I still remember when we were all trying to process the destruction from the tornadoes, and Britainy called me while walking the dog and said, ‘They don’t have any presents.’ And I said, ‘You mean they lost their Christmas presents?’ and she replied, ‘No, they lost all their presents, Andy,” Gov. Beshear said. “And from there Britainy put together what I think is the most successful toy drive this world has ever seen, in just two weeks.”
Starting last Friday, the Governor and First Lady celebrated Christmas in July with six Kentucky communities that were impacted by the tornadoes. The including Bremen and Dawson Springs.
During these events, the Governor also presented six checks to the following communities to support high-speed internet expansion and improvements at local parks.
In Dawson Springs, he presented $13,827,320 to the Pennyrile Rural Electric Cooperative for high-speed internet expansion in Caldwell, Christian, Lyon, Todd and Trigg counties;
Also in Dawson Springs, he announced the selection of the city for a $100,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) grant for improvements at Dawson Springs City Park.
Commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health Dr. Steven Stack provided an update on COVID-19, noting that while hospitalizations, ICU bed and ventilator use all remain at some of the lowest levels we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic, the virus is still actively spreading in Kentucky. Approximately two-thirds of Kentucky counties are at a medium or high COVID-19 community level.
“Currently, all active variants in Kentucky continue to be Omicron variants,” Dr. Stack said. “BA.5 has become the predominant variant nationwide at about 65% of the total COVID sequenced, and Kentucky is seeing a similar pattern. BA.5 does not appear to cause increased hospitalization or death, but it is causing more reinfections because previous strains confer less immunity to BA.5.”
For the greatest level of protection against COVID-19, the Governor and Dr. Stack encouraged unvaccinated Kentuckians to get vaccinated and for vaccinated Kentuckians to get boosted if they haven’t already.
Nine out of 10 Kentuckians under 60 who have died from COVID-19 in the past year were unvaccinated, and two-thirds of Kentuckians over 60 who died from COVID-19 in the past year were unvaccinated.
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