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January 15, 2022 9:37am

Governor Beshear calls for record education spending in budget plan

After teasing budget announcements all week, Governor Beshear unveiled his entire budget proposal before a joint session of the General Assembly Thursday evening. The governor called for state legislators to make a record investment of $2 billion in pre-K-12 education spending across the commonwealth, the single largest investment in this sector in Kentucky history.

Kentucky’s economic position this year is rosier than any in recent memory with a record-setting revenue-surplus of $1.9 billion and $1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

The budget address and press conference followed an unusual move by the House Majority, who unveiled their budget spending bills the previous week. While the House plan also emphasized investment in education, Governor Beshear’s plan goes further and calls for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds along with full-day kindergarten and a historic 16% increase in SEEK funding.

In addition to education, Governor Beshear’s budget also prioritizes spending to address Kentucky’s long-term workforce shortage by providing scholarships and student loan forgiveness in several essential industries including education, healthcare, and social work as well as investment in Career & Technical Education centers across the state.

Touting the record year in economic development wins for the commonwealth, Governor Beshear announced plans to capitalize on that momentum with funding for more attraction and retention efforts, including development of a Site Identification and Development program and a statewide Talent Attraction Media campaign to build a globally competitive talent development system.

Below are some of the highlights of the governor’s plan:

  • Universal pre-k for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten
  • 16% increase in SEEK funding
  • 5% salary increase for all school personnel and fully funding teacher’s pension and medical benefits
  • $22.9 million for teacher professional development
  • A nearly 12% increase in higher education funding
  • $97.4 million to renovate 11 local Career and Technical Education centers
  • $250 million to develop a Site Identification and Development program
  • $20 million to launch a competitive workforce initiative grant program
  • $10 million per year to fund a Talent Attraction Media Campaign
  • $12 million to increase amount of scholarships awarded to potential nurses and $25 million to provide student loan forgiveness for nurses and nursing faculty
  • Endorses a 6% raise for all state employees

While Governor Beshear’s plan seeks to take advantage of the unique fiscal opportunity Kentucky is in, President Stivers and Speaker Osborne have indicated that the General Assembly is unlikely to pass a budget with as much spending as the governor hopes for. Following the speech, Osborne doubled down on previous comments about a quick passage of the House budget bills, stating that he plans to move a on “the most aggressive timeline in modern history.”

GLI applauds both Governor Beshear and the House of Representatives for including historic levels of funding for education at all-levels in their budget proposals. This will ensure Kentucky students have access to challenging curriculum so we can create a highly-skilled homegrown workforce. We also appreciate both the Governor and House’s emphasis on infrastructure investments which will help connect our region and state with the rest of the globe. We will be monitoring the budget closely as it moves through the legislative process, and encourage legislators to consider increased funding for additional priorities like supporting the struggling childcare sector which is critical to increased workforce participation.