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January 28, 2016 2:50pm

The State of the Commonwealth & Budget Address – A Citizen’s Synopsis

Governor Bevin introduced his biennial budget proposal on Tuesday night. This brief synopsis is taken from his remarks as well as his staff’s Budget-in-Brief.  We at GLI will be digging down into the numbers over the next few weeks. As the budget process continues, we will continue to update you.

Governor Bevin presented his first biennial budget to a joint session of the General Assembly last night.  As expected, there are cuts to some programs, but not without several exemptions, which include the SEEK formula funds for education, Medicaid, and Veteran Affairs.

Essentially, Governor Bevin is proposing 9% across the board cuts to most agencies.  There are not tax cuts and no tax increases.  The plan sweeps very few funds from restricted accounts (a practice that has been prevalent in balancing the General fund over the past several budget cycles).  There were very few capital projects presented.

In his address, Governor Bevin emphasized these eight priorities:

  • Strengthen Kentucky’s Financial Foundation
  •  Invest in Education and Workforce Development
  •  Keep Commitment to All Public Servants
  •  Safeguard Kentucky’s Most Vulnerable
  •  Protect Those Who Protect Us
  •  Fight Substance Abuse
  •  Transform Kentucky’s Healthcare Delivery System
  •  Build Infrastructure for the Future

Strengthen Kentucky’s Financial Foundation: The proposal includes a 4.5 % reduction in the current fiscal year along with the 9% reduction to baseline spending in the coming biennium.  It exempts the SEEK formula, student financial aid and services to Kentucky’s veterans among others.  Baseline spending is reduced a total of $650 million.

Education and Workforce Development: In addition to exempting cuts to SEEK, the proposal allocates an additional $39 million to education and workforce development.  It dedicates all of the Lottery proceeds to Education including funds to KEES scholars, need based aid, and the National GuardTuition Award program.

On a positive note for workforce development, the governor proposed a bond pool of $100 million dollars to co-invest with local communities to meet the demand for advanced manufacturing jobs along with other high-skill information and technology jobs.  The proposal makes reductions in funding to universities, and announced an initiative to tie funding to performance.

Keep the Commitment to All Public Servants: The proposal addresses the pension crisis by dedicating $1.1 billion to the teachers system alone.  It adds an additional $130 million to the state and county employee systems.

Safeguarding Kentucky’s Most Vulnerable Citizens: The Governor provides for increases in wages and resources to child advocates, social workers, clinicians and guardians. He also announced that First Lady Glenna Bevin’s goal to dramatically reduce child abuse and neglect will receive additional investments of $1.5 million over the biennium.  The funding will go to 15 Children Advocacy Centers around the state.  Social workers and clinicians will receive an additional $4.8 million over the biennium for an increase in entry level and new hire salaries.

Protect Those Who Protect Us: Bevin announced a KLEFPF training stipend increase from $3,100 to $4,000.  The increase is for all current certified officers and firefighters.  It adds 200 new entrants to the fund that include State Park Rangers, AG investigators and Horse Park Mounted Patrol officers.

The proposed budget also includes base salary increases for State Police and Corrections officers, adds additional funding for 44 new public defenders, and exempts the state’s prosecutors from any budget reductions.

Strengthening the Fight Against Drug Abuse: Governor Bevin announced he will fully fund legislation to address the heroin epidemic in both years of the biennium.  He promises ongoing support of $6.4 million for the KASPER system to help with prescription drug abuse.  Operation UNITE is fully funded for each year of the biennium.

Health Care Initiatives:  Governor Bevin’s statements related to health care were consistent with his campaign commitments to do away with Kynect and transition over to the federal exchange.  He has initiated a plan to pursue a federal waiver that will allow Kentucky to restructure the Medicaid program, both the expansion and the older program.

A Safe and Reliable Transportation System:  Governor Bevin proposed that 15% of the state-funded portion of the road fund be dedicated to repair and maintenance of bridges.  Governor Bevin promises moving up the planning process of the I-69 Bridge in Henderson.  The entire two-year road spending plan will be released in the next few days along with the four-year planning document.  In his address, the Governor did name a few projects including a study and analysis of immediate traffic flow changes in the Brent Spence Bridge in Northern Kentucky

The budget will be introduced in the House on Wednesday and the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee will begin hearings next week.

You can view the full budget here.

This article was originally posted here: https://www.greaterlouisville.com/needtoknow/default.aspx?id=14110&blogid=10131#sthash.06b06XMX.dpuf