Kentucky is ending 2021 on a high note. At least when it comes to the economy, according to Governor Andy Beshear.
The Bluegrass Governor told 44News, by the end of the year, new capital investments in the state will near $11 Billion. That is roughly double the annual investment Kentucky sees in a normal year.
That investment will create nearly 16,000 full-time jobs for Kentuckians and Western Kentucky will benefit from a portion of those new projects.
“When you look at two of our biggest jobs and/or investments across the Commonwealth, this year, there is Pratt Paper in Henderson,” Gov. Beshear told 44News Anchor Jessica Hartman. “I am so proud of this investment.”
Announced in July, Pratt Paper plans to build two large facilities on a piece of land that was annexed into the City of Henderson for the $400 million project. The first of the two mills will produce 100% recycled paper product and create 320 jobs.
“That is their biggest investment in their history and it will be the most sophisticated recycled paper mill in the world when it is built,” continued Gov. Beshear.
The governor also touted the recent announcement by Ahlstrom-Munksjo in Madisonville. The company will be expanding its operation and hiring for 51 new positions.
These projects are coupled with major investments by both Ford and Toyota.
“I think it is as simple as people seeing who we really are,” explained the governor. “They want to be a part of Team Kentucky. It is that concept that we don’t just want to make an announcement with you. We want to help you build your facility. We want you to meet your schedule. We want you to be successful; we want to be a partner with you in the future.”
GOV. BESHEAR: MEDICAL MARIJUANA IS THE FUTURE
In 2020, Kentucky appeared to be on track to pass legislation that would legalize medical marijuana. A bill to do so had passed the House and was slated for consideration in the Senate when the pandemic cut the legislative session short.
It is expected that a similar bill will be filed ahead of the 2022 session.
“This is the future. It is where things are going,” said Gov. Beshear. “Kentucky should definitely move forward with medical marijuana.”
The governor went on to say, the law change would allow people who might otherwise turn to more damaging substances to use the drug. That comment comes on the heels of the deadliest year on record for drug overdoses involving Fentanyl in the United States.
However, the governor is clear. The right legislation would need to ensure the industry is set up and regulated in a way that leads to a win not a loss for the state as a whole.
“We have to have the right structure to make sure it is not abused here in Kentucky; that it is actually prescribed for medical purposes,” expanded Gov. Beshear.
KENTUCKY COULD DECRIMINALIZE MARIJUANA USE
Two other bills have been pre-filed in Kentucky, that would decriminalize marijuana. Something the governor, as the former attorney general of the state, supports.
The bills say “that nobody should go to jail for using marijuana,” explained the governor. “I agree with that. . . We need better methods than arrest and incarceration.”
The bills pre-filed by Rep. Nima Kulkarni, a Democrat from Louisville, stop short of legalizing recreational use.
“We also, in the future, should at least be open to conversations on the recreational side. But what I am advocating in this session is medicinal,” said Gov. Beshear.
WOULD GOV. BESHEAR CONSIDER RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT?
Gov. Beshear was just three months into his first term when the pandemic hit Kentucky. But his handling of the health crisis has drawn the attention of some national political writers.
In some cases, the governor is being called a dark horse pick for the democrats, if President Biden chooses not to run for a second term.
44News Anchor Jessica Hartman asked Gov. Beshear if he would consider running?
“I guess it is flattering, but I want to be Kentucky’s Governor. I am raising my kids here in Kentucky. We love Kentucky. I am from Kentucky. And I want to stay in Kentucky. The only thing I am running for is re-election.” responded Gov. Beshear.