A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Colmon Elridge: With well-being of many Kyians at risk, GOP focus has remained on thwarting Beshear


We have faced a challenging year. Together, we have endured a global pandemic that has put the health and financial well-being of hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians at risk. More than 5,000 families, like mine, are grieving the loss of loved ones, and countless others are mourning friends and neighbors. Many of our communities have suffered destructive ice storms and flooding. Our small businesses have struggled. Put simply: Kentuckians need help.

Governor Beshear provided the legislature with a balanced and responsible budget that would provide relief to so many in need of help right now. His focus is not only about providing relief now, but investing in the people of our Commonwealth and in doing so, betting that an empowered Kentucky economy can shape a brighter future for us all.

Yet, in an all-too-familiar refrain, Republicans in Frankfort have chosen to abandon the people of this Commonwealth, instead playing political games rather than providing much needed aid to Kentucky families, small business owners, and our communities.

Colmon Elridge

Thanks to smart decisions and good leadership, Governor Beshear handed the legislature $600 million in one-time funds. Governor Beshear recommended sending those dollars to where they were needed most: directly to Kentuckians.

What did the Republicans decide to do with that money instead? At least $650 million in tax breaks for those at the very top. Millions diverted from our public schools. And over $700 million in the state’s rainy day fund, which was already at record funding levels under Governor Beshear.

As Governor Beshear likes to say, if this isn’t a rainy day, I don’t know what is.

The GOP budget completely lacks vision and fails to invest in our people when they need it the most.

Instead of helping small businesses, the Republican budget removes Governor Beshear’s $220 million investment in direct relief to Kentucky individuals and businesses, removes Governor Beshear’s investment in Local Health Departments, and makes deep cuts to health care coverage for needy Kentuckians in the middle of a global public health crisis.

The GOP budget also continues their war on public education, gifting the wealthy with vouchers that will take precious dollars away from school districts, often one of, if not the largest employer in a county, and sends those dollars to private schools with little to no accountability. Gone are Governor Beshear’s investments in our children, including raising the SEEK formula and providing dollars for textbooks and technology. Gone are the needed investments in recruiting and retaining the very educators who moved heaven and earth to provide for our children during this crisis. Instead of supporting public education, the GOP has chosen to declare war on student and educator voices, never missing an opportunity to use their power to silence those who dare speak truth to power.

Republicans, unable to stand against spousal abuse in their own ranks, even cut the Governor’s allocation to Domestic Violence Intervention Services, funding for the Commission on Women, and funding for equal pay audits across local governments. The Republican budget also prevents the Energy and Environment Cabinet from hiring mine safety inspectors who serve as part of the Commonwealth’s mine rescue teams, continuing their assault on the health, safety, and well-being of Kentucky’s coal miners.

The Republican budget is irresponsible, needlessly cruel, selfish, and yet, on-brand for what the Republican party has become — a party whose only motivation is power, hell-bent on political retribution, and unphased by who is hurting.

And when they weren’t working on their completely uninspiring budget proposal, they were doing what they do best: attacking the Governor and stripping him of his ability to respond to the pandemic simply because they don’t like him.

In one of the crassest power grabs we have seen to date, Republicans have chosen to prevent Governor Beshear from allocating funds from the American Rescue Plan without their approval instead of working with him to get these funds out quickly. This will delay the process of providing vital relief to struggling Kentuckians and small businesses, and serves no purpose than to politicize our recovery with the hope that the Governor calls a special session and that they can spend precious taxpayer dollars lining their pockets at our expense.

A budget is a manifestation of your priorities. In one budget, we have a Governor investing in the people of this Commonwealth, ensuring that we are prepared to win the future. In the Republican budget, we see a party out of touch, wedded to their own partisan playbook, and willing to let the people of Kentucky suffer to get one more dig at a Democratic Governor because he dared make tough decisions and saved lives.

They’re more focused on punishing the Governor than they are on helping all of us — and the Commonwealth — recover and begin to build back better. Kentucky deserves better than this.

Colmon Elridge is chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party.


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