After eight years, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear leaves office next week. In this interview with WKU Public Radio's Lisa Autry, the two-term Democrat talks about his accomplishments, regrets, and future plans.
The country was in a recession when you took office in 2008. Are you satisfied with how you are leaving Kentucky's economy?
I'm very excited about where we are from an economic standpoint in Kentucky. As you mentioned, when I came into office, the Great Recession had just hit us in the face. All our families and state government were suffering, but we worked through it, and look today at just how far we've come. We got up to 11% unemployment during the recession. We're now at 4.9%. That's lower than the national average and it's lower than most states. We have created a lot of jobs and more are coming online. We just announced 2,000 more jobs at the Ford plant in Louisville. Our economy is beginning to boom. It's not all over the state. In our coalfields, we've got some issues, but overall, I feel very good about the economy.
As you leave office, tax revenue is expected to grow in coming years and the state is expected to have a budget surplus at the end of this fiscal year, but your successor has said the state is in a "financial crisis" considering the $500 million in additional expenses in the next budget in areas like pensions and Medicaid. How do you respond?
The incoming administration is going to start off with a better financial picture than I've had for eight years. They ought to be excited about that because the economy is booming and they're going to have a lot more revenue to deal with in terms of what they want to do for Kentucky. There are always more demands for money than there is money, but that's what leadership is all about. You have to make tough choices and decide what your priorities are. You have to move the money around to where you think it will do the most good. They're going to being able to support education, they'll be able to continue the health care advances we've made, and they'll be able to come up with a long-term solution for the teacher's pension system. We did that during my eight years with KERS, and they'll be able to do that for this too. So, they're in good shape and they're in a lot better shape than I ever was.