by Bill Mardis
“I’m a Democrat. Most of you are Republicans. I don’t care. Once elections are over most Kentuckians believe we are Kentuckians first and Democrats and Republicans secondly.”
Coming together to achieve success was the overriding theme of Gov. Steve Beshear’s address Tuesday to the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. He complimented Republicans and Democrats for working together during the recent session of the General Assembly, promised to work hard to bring back a struggling tourism economy now that Lake Cumberland is back to normal and insisted that Obamacare is working for Kentuckians.
“We can sit around and fuss all day long; butt our heads and nothing happens,” said Beshear. “But come together and we achieve ... ”
Beshear praised Somerset Republican State Senator Chris Girdler, president of the chamber of commerce, and his GOP colleagues for coming together during the recent session of the General Assembly and approving a budget that includes funds for education.
The governor mentioned specifically raises for teachers and restoration of child-care programs, and funds for a $1.5 million, 70,000-square-foot arts and humanities building at Somerset Community College.
“We’re not where we want to be in education but we must continue to tackle our weaknesses. Our educational system, while getting better, is not where the world demands,” Beshear said. “It’s not time to cower and hide under the covers ... it’s time to reinvent and raise our educational levels,” he insisted.
The governor lauded Austin Johnson, freshmen at Southwestern High School, for Johnson’s Creative Edge Design program with its model “Helichoppter.” Johnson is winner of the 2013-2014 Young Entrepreneurial Academy (YEA), sponsored by the chamber.
“The most exciting news I’ve heard lately is that Lake Cumberland is back up to where it was eight years ago,” said Beshear. He recalled in 2010 asking governmental units in the Lake Cumberland area to come together and “ ... we came up with an economic plan.”
“We need to go back to that plan,” the governor said. “I’m looking forward to pushing Lake Cumberland during my last year in office.”
Noting that lowering the level of Lake Cumberland to repair Wolf Creek Dam was devastating to a once-thriving houseboat industry, Beshear said an initiative to create an export business has spurred the industry.
“On a trip to Dubai, I had lunch on a houseboat made in the Lake Cumberland area,” said Beshear. Dubai is one of seven states that form The United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Beshear related his work with Congressman Hal Rogers to form SOAR (Shaping Our Appalachian Region), an innovated program to diversify job opportunities in Eastern Kentucky. The governor insisted that high speed broadband and good roads are essential for business success in this region.
The governor defended his support of the Affordable Heath Care Act, called Obamacare.
“I don’t care about politics ... It makes no difference whether you like President Obama. I’ve got a tool with which I can work,” he remarked.
Beshear said 640,000 Kentuckians –– 8,400 in Pulaski County –– have gotten health insurance, many for the first time. “Many of these were one diagnosis from bankruptcy,” he declared. “A productive workforce is a healthy workforce,” he concluded.