Legislative Update by C.B. Embry, Jr.
House Passes Bare Boned Budget
FRANKFORT, Ky. – The top duty of legislators was taken up this week as the House passed a new two-year budget for the Commonwealth by a vote of 78-17. The best way to describe the biennial budget for 2012-2014 is bare boned.
The budget implements cuts of 8.4 percent in all three branches of government, which is in addition to cuts we have been forced to make previously in the various services offered by Kentucky state government. In addition higher education, which is our state’s public universities, is receiving a budget cut of 6.4 percent. We also removed $450 million in bonds for capital construction projects at our public universities.
In addition while the SEEK formula for local school funding remains the same, some areas of K-12 see a cut of 4.5 percent in the proposed budget. However the House version of the budget bill provides $7.5 million to the expansion of preschool, which is sorely needed to help prepare our students at a young age so they may succeed in their education and hopefully their future careers. We also approved another $7.5 million to restore funding in areas of education cut in the past, including after school programs.
The House proposed state budget also did not cut Family Resource Centers, Community Education, or Conservation Districts, which were among my requests.
The two biggest factors that led to this austere budget for the next two years is the slow recovery of our state’s economy, and more importantly that we have spent more than we have taken in for many years. Even with all the reductions and cutbacks, our debt ratio in this proposed budget is 6.71 percent, the eighth highest in the nation.
Recently we sent a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee asking him to hold a hearing and vote on Senate Bill 1, which passed 34-2 last month. Senate Bill 1 is essentially a debt service cap on Kentucky’s General Fund. The proposal would limit the general fund debt service to not exceed six percent of the general fund revenue. It is our belief that Senate Bill 1 is sound fiscal and public policy, and we are hopeful the bill will be heard and passed in the remaining days of the 2012 Legislation Session.
We are also hopeful that in the future legislators, the press and you the public are given more time to review the Commonwealth’s budget before a vote can be taken. It is too important to Kentucky and its people that we vote on a $19.5 billion dollar budget when we are only given a few hours to review it before casting a vote.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns for the upcoming session. I can be reached at home at (270) 526-6237, or through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181. A taped message containing information on legislative committee meeting schedules is available by calling 1-800-633-9650, and information on the status of each bill is available by calling 1-866-840-2835. If you have Internet access, I can be reached at [email protected], or you may keep track of legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov.