Attracting and protecting thousands of jobs for Kentuckians, and providing financial stewardship in a difficult economy are among the achievements Governor Steve Beshear highlighted in his "Top 10 Accomplishments of 2011" released today.
"I am honored and humbled that Kentuckians have given me another four years to press forward with the issues that matter most to them," said Gov. Beshear. "We have worked hard to create new jobs and keep others in the state, to manage taxpayers' money wisely and to champion initiatives to improve children's health and combat abuse of prescription drugs."
1. ATTRACTING AND PROTECTING JOBS
Governor Beshear's focus on creating economic development opportunities has paid off in 2011. Thanks in part to the aggressive efforts of the state's economic development team, 13,178 prospective new jobs were announced in 2011. Those critical job-creation projects represent a more than $2.6 billion investment across the Commonwealth.
One of the biggest announcements of the year was the new investment from Ford Motor Company in its Louisville facilities. Gov. Beshear and Ford Motor Company President of the Americas Mark Fields joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, UAW representatives and other community officials to celebrate Ford investments totaling $1.2 billion and 3,100 new jobs. This was made possible by efforts that included the approval of a state incentive package.
Other major announcements in 2011 include:
* Wausau Paper in Harrodsburg - $220 million investment, 76 jobs
* UFLEX in Elizabethtown - $180 million investment, 250 jobs
* General Motors Corvette Plant in Bowling Green - $131.1 million investment, 250 jobs
* Hitachi in Berea - $74.5 million investment, 130 jobs
* Westlake Vinyl in Calvert City - $40 million investment, 380 retained jobs
* GE Lighting in Lexington - $10 million investment, 38 jobs
* Carhartt in Hanson - $25.8 million investment, 150 jobs plus 550 retained jobs
* Martinrea in Shelbyville - $12 million investment, 150 jobs
* Hendrickson USA in Somerset - $7.9 million investment, 160 jobs
* All Connect in Lexington - $7.4 million investment, 220 jobs
* Sequa Automotive Group in Morgantown - $7.2 million investment, 280 jobs
* Bruss North America in Russell Springs - $7 million investment, 190 jobs
* Wilbert Plastic Services in Lebanon - $6.1 million investment, 150 jobs
* Troll & Toad in Corbin - $4.6 million investment, 150 jobs
* Linamar in Florence - $4.5 million investment, 138 jobs
* CMS Text in Lexington - $4.4 million investment, 135 jobs
Kentucky's efforts in economic development are gaining national notice. In just one year, Kentucky climbed six places to No. 25 on Forbes' annual Best States for Business list, released in late November. Kentucky's ranking ties only one other state for the largest increase over a 4-year period, jumping 19 spots since 2008. This year, Forbes also listed five Kentucky cities on its Best Places for Businesses and Careers list.
2. TAKING CARE OF TAXPAYERS' MONEY
Kentucky closed Fiscal Year 2011 with a $156.8 million General Fund surplus, on the strength of positive revenues that exceeded budgeted levels. More than 75 percent of that surplus -- $121.8 million -- was deposited into the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, the state's so-called "rainy day fund." This is the largest such deposit in state history into the rainy day fund from an end of year surplus.
Gov. Beshear also announced this year that the Commonwealth has generated $7.45 million in revenue by selling surplus state-owned real estate -- evidence of further efficiency successes resulting from his ongoing Smart Government Initiative (SGI). In May, Gov. Beshear announced the sale of two surplus state-owned aircraft, generating more than $230,000 for the General Fund.
3. MANAGED CARE DELIVERY OF MEDICAID
In November, the state's half a million Medicaid recipients successfully transitioned to Medicaid managed care organizations -- a move that continues to provide the quality medical services they need, while also saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. The move to managed care will save $1.3 billion over the next three years -- $375 million of which is in General Funds.
Managed care is also expected to improve health care outcomes, particularly as it relates to such diseases as diabetes, coronary artery disease, colon cancer and cervical cancer. These managed care contracts place a high priority on reducing inappropriate use of services, such as unnecessary emergency room visits. For more information about Kentucky's Medicaid managed care system, visit www.MedicaidMC.ky.gov.
4. JUSTICE REFORMS TO DECREASE PRISON POPULATIONS, REDUCE COSTS AND CRIME, INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY
In March, Gov. Beshear signed into law a landmark justice reform bill designed to decrease the state's prison population, reduce incarceration costs, reduce crime and increase public safety. House Bill 463 is estimated to save the Commonwealth $422 million over the next decade.
The bill modernizes Kentucky drug laws by reducing prison time for low-risk, non-violent drug offenders who possess small amounts of illegal drugs, then reinvests the savings from reduced prison costs into drug treatment for offenders. The law also strengthens probation and parole laws. HB 463 is the product of recommendations from an unprecedented bipartisan, inter-branch task force that included legislators, the Chief Justice, officials from the Justice Cabinet, prosecutors and local officials.
Efforts to reduce Kentucky's inmate population trend allowed the state to close a minimum security prison in Frankfort and convert it into a modern training facility for the Kentucky State Police.
5. CHILDREN'S HEALTH INITIATIVES
2011 marked a significant push to improve children's health, particularly dental health. Continuing previous efforts to improve the dental health of Kentucky children through his Healthy Smiles Kentucky Initiative, Gov. Beshear announced a new Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and higher education partnership to enhance sustainable, collaborative dental health education and care in eastern Kentucky.
Morehead State University (MSU), the University of Pikeville (UPIKE) and the University of Kentucky (UK), through its College of Dentistry, will partner in the design of the Appalachian Rural Dental Educational Partnership Plan. The goal: to train more dentists to practice in rural areas and give them the tools necessary to set up thriving dental practices in eastern Kentucky.
Gov. Beshear also announced a new pilot program called "Smiling Schools," also funded in part by ARC, which will improve dental health for 25,000 Kentucky children in eastern Kentucky. Schoolchildren will receive a protective varnish applied to their teeth to prevent tooth decay, and will receive follow-up treatment and education on how to keep their teeth healthy. To learn more about the Healthy Smiles Kentucky initiative, visit KidsHealth.ky.gov.
2011 marked the three-year anniversary of the Beshear administration's effort to find health care for children whose low-income families had no insurance coverage. Since the initiative began in November 2008, 59,513 children who were eligible for existing programs but were not enrolled have been identified and signed up, either through Medicaid or the Kentucky Children's Health Insurance Program (KCHIP). As a result, more Kentucky children are getting the health care they need and deserve.
6. TARGETING PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
Gov. Beshear has taken a number of steps to combat the scourge of prescription drug abuse in Kentucky. Most recently, he appointed 11 health professionals to a panel that will help authorized agencies identify suspicious drug prescribing habits by medical professionals. The panel's work will significantly strengthen Kentucky's nationally-recognized drug monitoring program, Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER).
The KASPER Advisory Council, made up of doctors, pharmacists, and professionals from the fields of nursing, dentistry and mental health, will issue recommendations for flagging suspicious prescribing habits within KASPER, so that unusual records may be submitted to medical licensure boards for further review or criminal investigation.
Gov. Beshear has partnered with Attorney General Jack Conway and House of Representatives Speaker Greg Stumbo to announce the changes to KASPER, as well as other initiatives to fight prescription drug abuse. Other efforts include plans to hold multiple education summits on prescription drug abuse for medical professionals throughout the state. The leaders will also support legislation in the upcoming General Assembly to regulate and license pain clinics and to require use of KASPER among all medical professionals who can write prescriptions.
Kentucky is already among the nation's leaders in working to thwart the impact of prescription drug abuse. In August, Kentucky was host to the first meeting of a new Interstate Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, made up of representatives from Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Tennessee. The task force includes representatives from government, law enforcement, health care, and advocacy groups. The group is developing ways that states can work together to choke off the so-called "pill pipeline" of illegal prescription drugs streaming into those states from the south. Some Kentucky authorities estimate that 60 percent of the area's illegal prescription pills come from Florida.
In February, Gov. Beshear strongly urged Florida Governor Rick Scott to reconsider his decision to not implement a state drug monitoring system previously approved by the Florida legislature. Gov. Scott later reversed his decision.
Gov. Beshear also testified before a congressional panel on the prescription drug abuse issues facing Kentucky and our nation. Gov. Beshear urged Congress to continue providing resources to the Harold Rogers Prescription Drug Monitoring Grant Program. The Governor also proposed mandatory training for those who prescribe controlled substances and requested that more federal resources be focused on ceasing Florida's illegal prescription drug flow.
7. TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS
Gov. Beshear proudly unveiled a red, white and blue shield sign designating Kentucky's newest interstate highway -- Interstate 69 in western Kentucky, in 2011. Kentucky drivers will see the new interstate segment designated on official highway maps in 2012.
And as the Ohio River Bridges Project in Louisville -- to construct two bridges and revamp the Interstate 65 interchange -- moves forward, Gov. Beshear and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced design changes that will lead to a $1.2 billion savings for the dual bridge project -- from $4.1 billion to $2.9 billion. The project's price tag could go lower still as a result of continued efforts by the Louisville and Southern Indiana Bridges Authority as well as the states' governors, who are working to develop a financing plan to close the funding gap and reduce the 12-year project timetable through public-private partnerships. For more details, go to www.kyinbridges.com
8. SUPPORTING EDUCATION
Gov. Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear have long advocated that a well-educated population leads to better economic opportunity for the state. Despite repeated rounds of budget cuts, Gov. Beshear again protected SEEK, the state's main funding mechanism for K-12 classrooms, from deep cuts seen elsewhere in government.
Gov. Beshear has continued to support education throughout 2011. In October, Gov. Beshear announced a new college credit agreement that will allow high school students to earn both high school and college credit for selected courses. This dual-credit initiative is a partnership among the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet's Office of Career and Technical Education (OCTE), the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS).
In July, Gov. Beshear signed an executive order creating the Early Childhood Advisory Council. The council will work to unite stakeholders behind common strategies, standards and goals for Kentucky's early childhood system and advocate for improved quality of early childhood services and improved school readiness.
Gov. Beshear and Education Commissioner Terry Holliday called on the U.S. Department of Education for flexibility in public school accountability under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act. The Governor sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan asking to replace the public school accountability portions of the federal law with Kentucky's own model, noting that Kentucky is in a position to provide more rigorous educational experience for its public school students because of its work in testing and accountability.
9. SUPPORT FOR MILITARY AND VETERANS
As part of a special Department of Defense trip, Gov. Beshear traveled to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait to visit with Kentucky servicemen and servicewomen. The Governor is proud to have been able to thank them personally for their service to their country. At the time of his visit, Kentucky had more than 12,000 servicemen and women serving in these war zones.
In a show of support for those currently serving as well as those with past military service to their country, Gov. Beshear launched his 11-11-11 veterans' initiative, to specially honor veterans from Memorial Day to Veterans Day. The special emphasis culminated with Gov. Beshear speaking at a Veterans of Foreign Wars ceremony at the Old State Capitol on 11-11-11. Along the way, personal stories of Kentucky veterans have been published on a special website, and the Governor's administration promoted volunteer opportunities to assist military families.
The Governor continues to closely monitor and support Fort Knox as part of the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) expansion, and infrastructure improvements including schools and roads continue. The moves brought an influx of personnel to Fort Knox, and road construction and other positive impacts of BRAC are visible in the region. The Governor's BRAC Task Force has closely followed the growth at Fort Knox and recommended projects to support it.
10. SUPPORTING LOCAL BUSINESSES AND JOBS WITH ONE STOP BUSINESS PORTAL
In an effort to better serve the business community across the Commonwealth, Gov. Beshear authorized the creation of a one-stop business website to help businesses start and operate in a more efficient way. The Kentucky Business One Stop -- onestop.ky.gov -- is an interactive web portal designed to provide faster, friendlier, more reliable and cost-effective state government services to businesses.
The website features a link to the Secretary of State's office allowing citizens to register a new business online, while at the same time, providing a convenient way to communicate and interact with the Department of Revenue. A common sense guide helps walk businesses through all the steps needed at the state and local levels to start a business in Kentucky.
Gov. Beshear credits numerous individuals and agencies for working enthusiastically to create the website for the benefit of Kentucky's business community. The Beshear administration worked with business leaders and Secretary of State Elaine Walker and her staff to develop the website.