Kentucky families have been battered by a national recession born of greed on Wall Street and reckless spending in Washington. Yet they bear the heaviest burden of these tough times. Families pour over their bills at night trying to make the money work. They work harder, spend less and fight to stretch every dollar as far as they can.
Under Governor Steve Beshear, state government has shared in their sacrifice. Just like families across the Commonwealth are doing, he tightened Kentucky's budget belt. He slashed more than $1 billion in spending, making government leaner and more efficient. The Executive Branch is now the smallest it has been in decades.
Beshear's own office has not escaped the pain of budget cuts. Many positions remain unfilled, and traditional perks like "take home cars" are a thing of the past. When he made the tough decision to furlough most state workers for six days, he included himself and his entire staff. And when the recession hit, he, his senior staff and his cabinet secretaries voluntarily cut their salaries by 10 percent. Beshear's running mate, Jerry Abramson, also cut his salary as Mayor of Louisville to help balance the city's budget.
States across the nation are gutting K-12 education, eliminating health care programs and laying off police officers to balance their budgets. When they're not doing that, they are raising taxes across the board on families and businesses. Governor Beshear refuses to add to the financial burden Kentuckians' already feel, thus jeopardizing our recovery. He can be trusted to keep our taxes low and to protect families' interests.
Because of his pragmatic fiscal management, Governor Beshear has balanced the budget eight times in three years, without broad-based tax increases while protecting critical areas like our main classroom funding formula, and key public safety and economic development programs.
Beshear continues to seek ways to make government more cost-effective for taxpayers. He introduced the "Smart Government Initiative" as part of an ongoing, exhaustive effort to prioritize spending. Areas such as property management, state contracts, travel and energy expenses are being carefully examined to maximize savings.
Early in his administration, Beshear tackled one of the most pressing financial problems in Kentucky -- the public pension system. He worked collaboratively with the General Assembly to pass a bill that honored the Commonwealth's commitment to teachers, police officers, firefighters and state employees. It also eased the burden on the budgets of county and local governments and school districts. It enacted stricter pension policies, such as reducing benefits for new employees, eliminating pension double-dipping and mandating appropriate expertise for those making investment decisions. And finally, if the schedule of payments the bill created is followed, it will put our system back on sound financial footing.
The citizens of Kentucky have entrusted Governor Steve Beshear with their tax dollars, and he has been strategic and responsible with them. He and Jerry Abramson can be counted on to make the tough budgetary choices needed to cut government waste and invest in a brighter future for Kentucky.