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FRANKFORT, KY (WDRB) -- In a speech that drew more tweets than applause, Gov. Steve Beshear gave a sobering look at how state budget cuts have harmed students, classrooms and Kentuckians over the past five years.
And he pointed to a broken tax system and a growing pension deficit as the two main culprits.
"Our schools aren't treading water. They are slowly sinking," Beshear said. "We have to stop putting off uncomfortable decisions for future generations. We have to stop pretending that these problems aren't holding us back. Because they are."
During a joint session of the General Assembly, the governor pointed to slashed funding for education that he claimed has hurt students, and cut programs to help working parents.
"Over the past year, in national debates about the fiscal cliff and other issues, you've heard warnings about 'kicking the can down the road.' It's almost become a national slogan, and yes, that phrase is cliche. But phrases come cliche because they ring true. And here in Kentucky - right here - right now, that cliche rings true," said Beshear.
The governor said the projected 3 percent growth for this fiscal year was already spent cover debts for Medicaid, pension requirements and other costs.
He called on lawmakers to fix a pension system carrying $30 billion deficit and what he called an "outdated tax code." Republican Minority House Leader Jeff Hoover said the speech was essentially lip service that lacked specifics.
"How can we get this discussion started? How can we find a solution, how can we reach consensus? And I didn't hear any of that. That's what is disturbing about whole speech," said Rep. Jeff Hoover, R - Jamestown.
Rep. Rick Rand, D - Bedford and chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said he thought the governor's speech said what needed to be said to lawmakers.
"I think he did a great job of laying out the issues we face and the path we should take," Rand said.
Beshear made no mention of expanded gambling (a campaign issue he was elected on in 2007, which twiced failed to gain momento among lawmakers) or legalizing hemp. He did call for support for a statewide smoking ban.
"You guys count the applauses there were very few," said Hoover.
Beshear says taxes and pension reform must be dealt with at the same time.
"We must find solutions to them this year," he said, hinting that a special session might be required to tackle both issues following the 30-day session.
Kerri Richardson, a spokeswoman for the governor, told reporters before the speech that the governor supports such measures as the local sales tax option, which Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has pushed for to help Louisville generate more revenue.