Governor Beshear Reveals “Education First” Budget

FRANKFORT, Ky – Gov. Andy Beshear has laid out his “education first” budget.

His 2020-2022 Executive Budget recommendation makes no cuts in general fund spending the first time since the  2006-2008 budget and increases spending in several areas, including a number of  issues in education.

“Since 2006, we have seen deep, difficult, and historic cuts in our state budgets,” Beshear said. “These cuts were not simply numbers on a spreadsheet. They were lost services, lost opportunities, and sometimes even lost lives. They were a lack of support to repair broken lives.”

Beshear says he was able to achieve this by using funds from four different avenues, the official general fund revenue projected by the Consensus Forecasting Group, excess funds through things like surcharges, retiring debts, collection of settlements and revenue increase proposals.

To increase revenue Beshear is relying on generating $147.7 million in the biennium from four different forms of new revenue: Legalized sports betting, a ten cent tax increase on cigarettes other tobacco products, a ten cent per milliliter on vaping products and increasing the minimum tax on limited liability corporations.

As promised his budget includes a $2,000 salary increase for teachers in fiscal year 2021. This is a one-time salary supplement to teachers who are full-time teachers, the Beshear Administration allocates $97.7 million in fiscal year 2021 and $90.9 million in fiscal year 2022 to provide for the pay increases.

 Beshear’s budget also increases per pupil SEEK funding by 1%, the increase accounts for $39.0 million in fiscal year 2021 and $48.5 million in fiscal year 2022 that amounts to an increase of $40 per pupil. He will also provide $10 million over the biennium for preschool programs in disadvantaged areas.

Beshear’s budget also provides $11 million each year for textbooks, these funds were taken out of the 2018-2020 budget. The budget also restores the teacher loan forgiveness program to be administered by the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority by adding $2.1 million each year from lottery revenues. The need based teacher scholarship program will also see funding restored after being eliminated in the last budget.

The School Safety and Resiliency Act will begin to see some funding as well, but not all $120 million need to implement it completely. $18.2 million in bond funding is being allocated to help pay for school building upgrades.

“Sadly, we cannot satisfy all parts of that bill in a single budget,” he said. “So this proposal takes the natural first step in fully funding the physical security improvements needed in our public schools.”

Teachers pensions and healthcare will continue to be fully funded under Beshear’s recommended budget as well.

For the first time in years Kentucky’s colleges will see a funding increase of 1%. The additional $8.6 million will come from the General Fund and the base state funding will be no longer be awarded on the performance funding model. Schools will also see $200 million in bond funds to for the Resurgence Fund which helps pay for maintenance on buildings throughout campuses. Finally, more funding will go toward need based scholarships allowing 7,300 more Kentuckians receive tuition assistance.

Another promise Beshear kept deals with health care. His budget recommends fully funding Medicaid by allocating an additional $38.9 million in FY 21 and $199.0 million in FY 22. His budget also includes $1 million a year in state funds to ensure all eligible children are enrolled in KCHIP, a program that provides health insurance for uninsured children.

Teachers are not the only ones receiving pay increases; state employees will also receive a 1% salary increase each year. State employees have not received an across the board pay increase in almost ten years. Kentucky State Police troopers will also be receiving pay increases.

Struggling coal counties in Kentucky will receive some help through Beshear’s budget as well, under his proposal counties will receive $10.3 million in FY 21 and $7.5 million in FY 22 from the coal severance tax revenue.

Once again Beshear highlighted the need for criminal justice reform in his budget address, highlighting the $109 million increase over the 2000-2020 biennium.

“From a moral standpoint, criminal justice and prison reform is the right thing to do. My faith teaches me that,” he said. “But we must also change based on our current reality and on our budget. We cannot afford to continue this incarceration rate and continue to educate our children.”

Finally, quasi-governmental agencies such as health departments, rape crisis centers and more will receive some pension relief with Beshear’s budget. Beshear will freeze employer contribution rates at 67.41%. Beshear says this will supersede legislation passed during a July 2019 special session which gave agencies several options to leave or stay in the state’s pension system.

Other Areas of funding include

  • -$7 million in FY 21 and $24.5 million in FY 22 to hire 350 new social workers
  • -$13 million over the biennium toward child support enforcement
  • -$1 million each year to the Department of Community Based Services for the Kentucky Coalition against Domestic Violence
  • -$2.5 million each year from the Firefighters Foundation Program Fund for a program to treat firefighters with post-traumatic stress disorder
  • -$52.5 million for Phase II of the emergency radio replacement system
  • -$3 million each year to improve state police laboratory staff salaries and to invest in Rapid DNA technology
  • -Funds to initiate a new loan forgiveness program for nursing staff at Veterans Venters
  • -$357,500 annually is restored to Commission on Women
  • -$200,000 each year for the Commission on Human Rights
  • -$1 million each year for the Department of Local Government to administer a grant program that provides resources for local governments to conduct equal pay audits of their own human resources processes.
  • -$1.9 million each year to support venture funds directed at distressed urban areas