LEXINGTON, Ky. – Gov. Andy Beshear has been making education his top priority since the campaign, so to no surprise, his first budget focuses on schools.
That includes more overall funding for K-12 and higher education, $2,000/year raises for teachers, and $11 million for new textbooks among several other things.
“We know across the Commonwealth that we have kids learning from textbooks held together by duct tape,” Beshear said. “We have classrooms that don’t have the technology to compete not only with Indiana, but India and around the world, so we restored funding in this budget for both textbooks and technology, and we hope to do even more next time.”
Beshear toured the Carter G. Woodson Academy in Lexington, promoting those education priorities.
But the budget Beshear proposed earlier this week hasn’t been received well by Republican legislative leaders.
In fact, both House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, and Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said they didn’t receive anything at all from the governor until his address Tuesday night, and they weren’t happy about it.
“I’d say that when you are sworn in as Governor, I was sworn in on December 10th, you have about 50 days to build an entire administration and put together a $40 billion dollar budget,” Beshear said. “And while I’m proud of what we’ve done in both areas, it left very little time at the end, because we were making budget decisions right up to the night before. So we had a limited amount of time, and I knew that legislators, especially legislative leaders, have worked on dozens of budgets. And they’ve got a lot of staff that are going to get in and analyze this. They know what they’re doing.”
Gov. Beshear also addressed why he gave reporters a private briefing on the budget several hours before Tuesday’s address.
“Half the press has turned over in the last couple of budgets and we wanted to make sure they had the basic facts the legislative leaders already know,” Beshear said. “It wasn’t a partisan issue. We weren’t able to brief Democrats or Republicans. And now we’ve got the whole rest of the session to work on that budget with them.”
And Beshear said those talks with lawmakers have started and will continue for the next few months.
“What I can tell is no on can argue that this is not a responsible, balanced budget,” Beshear said. “We rely on less than half of the new revenue that the General Assembly approved in the last budget, and three out of four of our proposals are based on bills filed by the Republican majority members. So this budget is real, and what that means is the cuts can and should stop, and we should be able to invest back into our communities. The question isn’t whether we can afford to, the question is are we willing to. And for the sake of our next generations, we better be willing to.”
Lawmakers have until the end of the legislative session in April to figure out a spending plan.