FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Calling it an education first budget, Gov. Andy Beshear laid out his state spending plan for the next two years, which includes no spending cuts for the first time in more than a decade and fully funding the public pension plans.
He unveiled his budget before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday night.
He anticipates just over $24.5 billion in total income from all sources for the biennium that runs from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022.
Some of the major budget highlights include:
--A $2,000 across-the-board salary increase for teachers.
--Increasing the SEEK funding for schools by one percent, to $4.040 per student.
--Full funding for the Teachers Retirement System and medical benefits.
--$18.2 million in bond funding to finance school building upgrades required by the 2019 School Safety bill.
--Debt service to continue and increase the $58 million and authorizing the School Facilities Construction Commission an additional $100 million in offers of assistance to improve school facilities.
--Funding from the Volkswagen settlement to pay for one “Green” school bus in each school district.
--$13.3 million for infrastructure repairs at the Kentucky School for the Blind and School for the Deaf.
--Funding to staff and operate a new regional secondary Area Technology Center to serve Estill, Powell and surrounding counties.
--Increase funding for postsecondary education institutions by one percent, a total of $8.6 million. This reverses a trend of cuts in 12 of the last 13 fiscal years.
--$200 million for a higher education resurgence fund, for deferred maintenance and asset preservation needs, estimated at $7 billion.
--$430 million in bonding authority for 23 capital projects requested by seven institutions.
--$37 million to freeze pension contribution rates.
--Scholarship aid to another 7,900 students, due to an unanticipated increase in Kentucky Lottery revenue.
--$238 million to fully fund Medicaid and Medicaid Expansion.
--$35 million in bond funding for a loan to the University of Louisville to purchase the Jewish Hospital System.
--Nearly $30 million to help community mental health centers and local health departments pay for increased pension costs.
CHILDREN and FAMILIES
--$31.5 million to pay for hiring 350 new social workers, to increase the number by 27 percent.
--$13 million to preserve federal matching funds for child support enforcement.
--$32 million to fund a one percent pay raise each of the two years for state employees.
--Full funding for state employee pensions and health insurance.
PUBLIC SAFETY AND VICTIMS SERVICES
--A $600 increase in the Kentucky Law Enforcement and Firefighters Foundation Programs, bringing the stipend up to $4,600, for nearly 12,000 police and fire personnel.
--$13.9 million for salary to Kentucky State Police troopers and other sworn personnel.
--An additional $52.5 million for phase II of a project to replace the KSP emergency radio system.
--$6 million to improve KSP lab staff salaries.
--An additional $7.6 million for more staffing for Commonwealth’s Attorneys and expenses of County Attorneys.
--Increasing the Corrections Department budget by $109 million, including maintaining the lease-purchase agreement of the Bevin Administration to operate the Southeastern Correctional Complex.
--Returning nearly $18 million in coal severance tax to counties.
--$16.4 million in state bond funds for drinking water and wastewater infrastructure.
--$30 million (plus $4.1 million in the current year) for the Transportation Cabinet to issue Real IDs.
--$15 million to go with federal funds for public transportation.
FINANCE AND ADMINNISTRATION
--$6.5 million for additional staff to help the Revenue Department collect back tax payments.
--$22 million in bond funds for the first phase of upgrades to the Capitol, Capitol Annex and parking garage.
--$10 million to shore up the Budget Reserve Trust Fund, the so-called “Rainy Day Fund.”
--$45 million in a category designated other known liabilities, like lawsuit settlements.
Beshear says there are four new revenue sources to help pay for this. They include, anticipating legalization of sports wagering, which is estimated to bring in $37 million over two years; a 10 cents per pack hike in the cigarette tax, worth $39 million; a tax on vaping products $8.8 million and raising minimum taxes on LLCs from $175 to $225, generating $8.2 million.
During his remarks, Beshear said, “Our families deserve a budget that stops cutting and starts rebuilding and reinvesting. I know we can do that, let’s get it done.”
After the address, Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, called it a balanced responsible budget. “It finally puts the priorities where we need them: education, health care, kids, jobs. This is what we need to focus on in Kentucky, not just for the next two years, but for where we want to be, five, 10, 15 years from now.”
House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, concurred. “It’s great to see a Governor who leads, who talks about thinks that are important to Kentucky. We all know Kentuckians want better education outcomes, we want our citizens to be healthier, we want our children to be safer, we want safer roads, and he talked about all those things.”
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he was upset with the process, specifically no budget briefing before the speech, when one was held for the media five hours before the speech.
“I’ve been here a long time and I don’t recall any time that the press has been briefed and we haven’t,” Stivers said. “In the day and age, one in which the Governor says he wants to change the tone in Frankfort, this is probably the least tone changing incident that I’ve seen so far.”
House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said it was hard to offer reaction to the proposed budget, since the Governor’s office had not spoken with them. “Not a single legislator in the body, Majority or Minority, was briefed on this budget prior to it hitting the floor,” he said. “I find that to be just a little disconcerting.”
Osborne added, the legislative budget staff is beginning work on the document immediately to give lawmakers a better feel for it. “We will move as quickly as we possibly can to try to produce a document that we can get to the Senate, hopefully before the end of February.”