Kentucky’s Democratic governor releases public safety budget plan amid tough reelection campaign

By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Gov. Andy Beshear on Wednesday proposed another round of pay raises for Kentucky State Police troopers and more training for law officers as part of his latest budget proposals to increase public safety, coming amid a sharp focus on crime rates in his bid to win a second term.

The Democratic governor’s proposals would be part of the overall state budget plan he presents to the Republican-dominated legislature in January if he wins reelection this November. It comes about a month after his Republican challenger Attorney General Daniel Cameron unveiled his own plan, which includes awarding recruitment and retention bonuses to bolster police forces.

Beshear said his plan shifts all statewide law enforcement officers back to defined pension benefits, funding to upgrade body armor, and boosting training stipends for officers — including making part-time officers eligible for the stipend.

“With a historic budget surplus, there is no excuse not to provide the help that is needed, the best equipment to all law enforcement,” Beshear said at a news conference. “Because heroes like these deserve the best wages, the best benefits, the best training. And that is exactly what my budget proposal will do.”

The governor proposed an additional $2,500 pay raise for a group of officers that includes state police troopers and vehicle enforcement officers. It follows up on the large pay raise previously awarded to state troopers — a bipartisan policy supported by Beshear and lawmakers.

Other parts of Beshear’s plan would raise the current $4,300 training stipend to $4,800 and provide grant funding to upgrade body armor to better protect law officers.

Public safety issues have risen to the forefront of Kentucky’s closely watched gubernatorial campaign.

In his plan, Cameron also proposed requiring pursuit of the death penalty against anyone convicted of murdering a police officer. He pledged to work with lawmakers to pass a wiretapping law to support investigations of drug-cartel and gang-related crime. And he vowed to push for a standalone carjacking law to combat a crime that he said has become more prevalent in Kentucky’s largest cities.

A recent law enforcement report showed that overall serious crime rates fell across Kentucky in 2022, with double-digit declines in reports of homicides, robberies and drug offenses.

Cameron has blasted the governor’s decision to allow the early release of some nonviolent inmates during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people released committed new crimes, Cameron said. Beshear countered that more than 20 governors from both parties took the same action to release low-level, nonviolent inmates near the end of their sentences to help ease the spread of the virus in prisons.

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