On Tuesday, February 5, 2007, Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher addressed the joint session of the General Assembly in the House Chamber of the State Capital. In his State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Fletcher spoke about achievements of the past years and outlined new priorities for the coming years.
“I am here to report that the state of the Commonwealth is much stronger and healthier than it was three years ago,” said Governor Fletcher. “New companies are springing up all across the state and the country is now looking to Kentucky as an emerging biotech player.”
Along with his positive updates, the Governor suggested changes for the future including a recommendation to add $150 million to the state’s reserve fund, bolstering the total balance of reserves to over $380 million. Prior to Governor Fletcher taking office, the state reserve funds were virtually non-existent as the state struggled with a balanced budget.
In further support of the need for a stronger reserve fun, Governor Fletcher said, “We still have challenges that lie ahead in order to reach the goals that I have laid out for the next decade.”
Governor Ernie Fletcher also made recommendations for increases in health care funding of $50 million dollars to be used for the health care benefit component of retirement plans for state employees, and $27 million in education funds towards the benefit of proposed initiatives.
The education initiatives the Governor identified include utilizing $7 million for the Math Achievement Fund, creating plans to address rapid growth in school populations, and utilizing $20 million towards need-based assistance through the College Access Program.
The College Access Program (CAP) helps Kentucky’s financially needy undergraduate students attend eligible public and private colleges and universities, proprietary schools, and technical colleges. CAP Grants are awarded to Kentucky residents enrolled for at least six semester hours (half time) in academic programs that take at least two years to complete.
The Governor suggested that the Kentucky legislature make a promise of education with Kentucky residents.
“I will call this promise the ‘Kentucky Covenant,'” Governor Fletcher pronounced. “A pact that says if you work hard, get good grades and take rigorous courses, we will guarantee you an affordable college education here in this state regardless of your financial means.”
Good news for the number of Kentucky high school graduates who did not enroll for college in 2006, many due to financial hardships.
Additional priorities identified by Governor Fletcher in his State of the Commonwealth address were financial support for county jails, vaccinations for the Human Papilloma Virus, additional services for vulnerable children, and additional rehabilitation services for substance abuse.
More information on the State of the Commonwealth Address may be found on Kentucky.gov.