Governor of Kentucky

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Kentucky Governor
General information
Office Type:  Partisan
Office website:  Official Link
2013 FY Budget:  $8,789,000
Term limits:  2 consecutive terms
Length of term:   4 years
Authority:  Kentucky Constitution, Article 6, the Executive Department
Selection Method:  Elected
Current Officeholder

Name:  Steve Beshear
Officeholder Party:  Democratic
Assumed office:  December 11, 2007
Compensation:  $138,012
Next election:  November 2015
Last election:  November 8, 2011
Other Kentucky Executive Offices
GovernorLieutenant GovernorSecretary of StateAttorney GeneralTreasurerAuditorCommissioner of EducationAgriculture CommissionerInsurance CommissionerNatural Resources CommissionerLabor Cabinet SecretaryPublic Service Commission
The Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is an elected constitutional officer, the head of the Executive branch, and the highest state office in Kentucky. The Governor is popularly elected every four years by a plurality and is limited to two successive terms.

As of April 2015, Kentucky is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: Kentucky State Legislature, Kentucky House of Representatives, Kentucky State Senate

Current officer

The 61st and current Governor is Steve Beshear, a Democrat elected in 2007.


The state Constitution addresses the office of the governor in Article 6, the Executive Department.[1]

Under Article IV, Section 69:

The supreme executive power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a Chief Magistrate, who shall be styled the "Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky."


Current Governors
Gubernatorial Elections
Current Lt. Governors
Lt. Governor Elections
Breaking news

A candidate for governor is required to be:

  • at least thirty years old
  • have resided in the state for at least six years preceding the general election


Kentucky state government organizational chart

Kentucky belongs to the handful of states that hold off-year elections, that is, elections in off-numbered years that are neither presidential nor midterm years. In Kentucky's case, elections are held in the year after a midterm and before a presidential; thus, 2015, 2019, 2023 and 2027 are all gubernatorial election years. Legally, the inauguration is always held the fifth Tuesday after an election.

In the event of a tie, a joint session of the legislature shall cast ballots, as set out in § 90.



See also: Kentucky gubernatorial and lieutenant gubernatorial election, 2015

There is a regularly scheduled election for governor in 2015. Steve Beshear (D) is not eligible for re-election due to term limits. The primary election is scheduled for May 19, 2015, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2015.

Term limits

See also: States with gubernatorial term limits

Kentucky governors are restricted to two consecutive terms in office, after which they must wait four years before being eligible to run again.

Kentucky Constitution, Section 71

The Governor shall be ineligible for the succeeding four years after the expiration of any second consecutive term for which he shall have been elected.

Partisan composition

The chart below shows the partisan breakdown of Kentucky State Governors from 1992-2013.
Governor of Kentucky Partisanship.PNG


See also: How gubernatorial vacancies are filled

Details of vacancies are addressed under Article 6, Section 84.

Whatever the circumstances, if the elected governor is unable or unwilling to discharge the office, the duties pass to the lieutenant governor. If the governor is on trial for any reason, the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court must be the presiding officer.

Regarding physical or mental unfitness for office, the Attorney General of Kentucky may petition the Supreme Court for a judgment that the governor must be removed either temporarily or permanently.



Substantial power is granted to the Governor of Kentucky. Historically, the office has been regarded as one of the most powerful executive positions in the United States.

With regards to the legislature

The governor exercises traditional veto power, which can be overridden by a majority of both houses of the General Assembly. He or she is also granted the privilege of a line-item veto. As with the U.S. President, the governor has the option of a pocket veto. Unlike the federal pocket veto, however, in the event that the legislature dismisses, preventing the return of the bill by the governor, the bill becomes law after 10 days unless the governor explicitly vetoes it. With the federal pocket veto, the bill is considered vetoed after 10 days if the legislature dismisses.

The governor may, in exceptional circumstances, call the General Assembly into special session. This is done by issuing a proclamation that includes the issue or issues to be addressed in the special session. Consideration of any other issues during the session is forbidden. Special sessions are to take place in the state capital except in cases of danger from enemies or disease; in such cases, the governor specifies the location of the session.

The governor is required to give a "State of the Commonwealth" address periodically to the General Assembly. Traditionally, this is an annual address. The governor is also charged with presenting a budget to the General Assembly every other year.

With regards to the judiciary

He or she is granted the traditional executive power of pardon except in cases of impeachment or treason.

With regards to appointments

The governor is given broad appointment power, and names many state commissioners and department heads without the need for legislative approval. The governor is also empowered to reorganize the state government or reduce it in size.

Other duties and privileges of the office include:

  • Serving as commander-in-chief of Kentucky's military forces, unless those forces have already been federalized (§ 75)
  • Filling all vacancies when the manner is not otherwise prescribed (§ 76)
  • Remitting fines and forfeitures, commuting sentences, and granting reprieves, in addition to the judicial pardon (§ 77)
  • Requiring written reports from any other member of the Executive on any aspect of that individual's job (§ 78)


Note: Ballotpedia's state executive officials project researches state official websites for information that describes the divisions (if any exist) of a state executive office. That information for the Governor of Kentucky has not yet been added. After extensive research we were unable to identify any relevant information on state official websites. If you have any additional information about this office for inclusion on this section and/or page, please email us.

State budget

Role in state budget

See also: Kentucky state budget and finances

The state operates on a biennial budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[2][3]

  1. Budget instructions are sent to state agencies in July of the year preceding the start of the biennium.
  2. State agencies submit their budget requests in October.
  3. Agency hearings are held in November and December.
  4. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the legislature on the 15th legislative day (this deadline is moved up to the 10th legislative day for governors serving a second term).
  5. The state legislature adopts a budget in April. The biennium begins July 1.

Kentucky is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[3]

The governor is legally required to submit a balanced budget proposal. Likewise, the legislature is required to adopt a balanced budget.[3]

Governor's office budget

The Office of the Governor's budget for fiscal year 2013 was $8,789,000.[4]


See also: Comparison of gubernatorial salaries and Compensation of state executive officers

The salary of the governor and lieutenant governor, is determined by the Kentucky State Legislature. Section 74 of the Kentucky Constitution maintains that the governor's pay is fixed by law.[5] Section 96 of the Kentucky Constitution stipulates compensation for duties must be paid as a salary and in no other way.[6]

Kentucky Constitution, Section 74

Compensation of Governor and Lieutenant Governor. The Governor and Lieutenant Governor shall at stated times receive for the performance of the duties of their respective offices compensation to be fixed by law.

Kentucky Constitution, Section 96

Compensation of Constitutional State officers. All officers mentioned in Section 95 shall be paid for their services by salary, and not otherwise.


In 2014, the governor received a salary of $138,012, according to the Council of State Governments.[7]


In 2013, the governor's salary was $153,970. This reflects a voluntary 10 percent salary reduction taken by Gov. Steve Beshear.[8]


In 2012, the Kentucky Governor was paid an estimated $151,643. This figure comes from the Council of State Governments.


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Kentucky
Partisan breakdown of the Kentucky governorship from 1992-2013

From 1992-2013, in Kentucky there were Democratic governors in office for 18 years, including the last six, while there were Republican governors in office for four years. Kentucky is one of seven states that were run by a Democratic governor for more than 80 percent of the years between 1992-2013.

Across the country, there were 493 years of Democratic governors (44.82%) and 586 years of Republican governors (53.27%) from 1992-2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Kentucky, the Kentucky State Senate and the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1992-2013.

Partisan composition of Kentucky state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Kentucky state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Kentucky has been in the bottom-10 of the SQLI ranking regardless of its Democratic trifecta or years under divided government. The state’s highest ranking came in 1998 and 1999 (43rd) under a Democratic trifecta, while the state’s lowest ranking came in between the years 2003 and 2011 (48th) under divided government. The state has never had a Republican trifecta.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 45.00
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: N/A
  • SQLI average with divided government: 47.31
Chart displaying the partisanship of Kentucky government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Historical officeholders

There have been 61 Governors of Kentucky since 1792. Of the 61 officeholders, 8 were Republican, 33 were Democrat, 8 were Jeffersonian Republican, 9 were Whig, 1 was Jacksonian Democrat 1 was American, and 1 was Democratic Republican.[9]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Kentucky Governor."

Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.

Governor of Kentucky - Google News Feed

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Contact information

700 Capitol Avenue, Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

See also

External links