FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Steve Beshear has made his case for reforming Kentucky's tax structure, saying the state's leaders must stop putting off uncomfortable decisions.
In a speech to a joint session of the House and Senate on Wednesday, Beshear said massive budget cuts over the past five years have hurt key government programs and that additional revenue is needed to undo the damage.
The second-term Democrat said anticipated revenue growth won't be sufficient. He called on lawmakers to think strategically and act courageously.
Kentucky has had to cut the state budget by $1.6 billion since 2008. That has meant cuts of up to 38 percent for some agencies.
A commission appointed by Beshear has proposed a list of tax reforms that would generate nearly $700 million a year in additional revenue.
Gov. Beshear is also urging lawmakers to bar students from dropping out of high school until they're legally adults.
The second-term Democrat used his annual State of the Commonwealth speech to a joint session of the House and Senate to again tout the proposal that he's been pushing for years.
The proposal would increase the dropout age incrementally from 16 to 17 to 18 over a period of years, giving both students and school districts time to adjust to the change.
The Democratic-controlled House has approved the measure in past years, but it has never been passed by the Republican majority in the Senate.
Gov. Beshear promoted a statewide smoking ban in his speech.
He said that addiction to tobacco is hurting productivity in Kentucky, jacking up medical costs and killing people.
Beshear said some three dozen cities and counties in Kentucky already have smoking bans in public places. He said it's time to look seriously at extending the ban statewide.
The Democratic governor said people still could light up, just not in places where they'd expose others to secondhand smoke.
Critics fear that classrooms would be disrupted by students who don't want to be in school.
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