FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear touted his top accomplishments in 2012 to reporters on Thursday, but acknowledged that much work lies ahead in 2013 on tough issues like tax reform, pension problems and expanded gambling.
The Democratic governor, now in the second year of his second four-year term, promoted his efforts to improve the economy and crack down on prescription drug abuse before holding a series of end-of-year interviews in his Capitol office.
Beshear said his priorities for the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly, which convenes Jan. 8, are tax reform, fixing an ailing public pension system, raising the school dropout age to 18 and winning approval for expanded gambling.
He said final action on tax reform and pension issues, both subjects of study by task forces this year, may have to wait for a special law-making session later in 2013. But he would like lawmakers to begin discussing the topics in the upcoming session, which is scheduled to end March 26.
Beshear also said he would prefer that lawmakers put off the contentious issue of legislative redistricting — the redrawing of district boundaries to accommodate population changes — until after tax reform and the pension problem are addressed.
Lawmakers tried to redraw legislative districts earlier this year, but the courts ruled their maps unconstitutional.
On expanded gambling, Beshear said he would like lawmakers to approve a constitutional amendment in 2013 so Kentucky voters could consider it at the polls in November 2014.
Looking back at 2012, Beshear said records from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that Kentucky "had the second highest job growth rate of any state in the country in 2012."
North Dakota was No. 1 with a boom in oil and gas jobs.
Kentucky's job growth rate of 2.6 percent was more than double the rate of nearby competitor states, he said.
Beshear also placed on his "accomplishments" list a crackdown on illegal pain clinics and state help in recovery from disasters like the March tornadoes that devastated West Liberty and other parts of Kentucky.
On other issues, Beshear said:
■ He wants to expand the state's Medicaid rolls under the federal Affordable Care Act "if the state can afford it."
"We have that issue under consideration right now," he said. "If I can determine we can afford it, I certainly want to do it because we are one of the unhealthiest states in the nation."
■ He has "in theory no problem" with industrial hemp but wants to make sure law enforcement is comfortable with it before advocating making it legal.
■ He is waiting to hear from the Council on Postsecondary Education about possible bonds to fund various building projects at the University of Kentucky.
■ He has not talked to actress Ashley Judd about a possible run for U.S. Senate in 2014 against Republican incumbent Mitch McConnell, "but I look forward to seeing her at UK basketball games."
He went on to say that Judd, a resident of Tennessee, is "a great person ... a Kentuckian."
■ A national discussion should be held on how to make schools safer in light of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. "We ought to be open to all ideas and all options. I'm a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but this isn't about the 2nd Amendment. It's about the safety of our kids."
Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com