FRANKFORT, Ky. — It took more than two hours but on day 42 of the session, the Kentucky House has passed its budget.
The $24 billion budget makes several changes from the budget proposed by Gov. Andy Beshear.
House Appropriation & Revenue Chair Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, says this budget is a compromise.
“This is no easy task, Mr. Speaker, you and I are not Santa Claus, there is no getting around the fact that there is only so much to go around,” he said. “And many people will be sitting around their dinner table knowing exactly what that feels like.”
The budget includes $10 million total for new textbooks, less than half of the $22 million Beshear had in his budget for the same purpose.
It also begins funding the first phase of the School Safety and Resiliency Act with $18.7 over the biennium to help school facilities meet their needs, an additional $38.5 million is being allocated to pay for new school counselors another aspect of the bill.
The SEEK formula will also see an increase to $4,061 per student for 2020-2021 and $4,112 per student for 2021-2022.
The budget includes funding from the Volkswagen Settlement for 113 new school buses; Beshear’s budget had included funding for 150 new buses. The rest of the Volkswagen settlement money will go toward replacing public transportation buses in Kentucky.
Democrats were happy to see funding go toward education but had hoped for more.
“This budget compared to the governor’s proposed budget gives $122.5 million less to education,” said House Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg. “So it reprioritizes the education first budget in a lot of ways.”
The budget also includes one percent pay increases for state employees and school employees. For school employees, the pay increase will come from SEEK funding.
When it comes to health care some Democrats said it left something to be desired.
The budget includes money for an additional 200 Michelle P. Waiver slots, Beshear’s budget included money for 500 new waivers.
“We have families and folks with disabilities, I think combined waiting lists for all those waivers programs are 7,000 to 8,000 people and if we think of the people who have been waiting for years and people who have dropped off the list because they don’t think they are ever going to be on it we probably have upwards of 10,000 people who are going to need our help,” said House Minority Floor Leader Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively.
The House budget also removes all funding from Kentucky Wired, which Democrats say could end up costing the state in the long run.
“The amount estimated to cover the cost of the breach in this contract is between $400-$600 million, I’m talking about millions by not paying the $34 million each year in this biennium that we are supposed to pay for Kentucky Wired,” said Hatton. “We may well cost the state that much and still not get the internet broadband services delivered to our counties”
When it comes to Kentucky’s colleges-the House allocated more money to them — but left it in a performance-based funding model—something Beshear had removed.
“I’m glad to see there is an increase in funding for higher education, as someone who has WKU and SKYCTC in my district that’s extremely important,” said Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green. “I do echo many of the sentiments that have been raised on the floor today by the lady from Jefferson that we need to look at performance-based funding again, I couldn’t agree more.”
The budget also allocates money for the hiring of an additional 100 social workers over the biennium, Beshear’s budget had included funding for 350.
While the bill is a budget bill—a provision in the bill would repeal daylight savings time in Kentucky if the federal government agrees to remove it.
The budget passed overwhelmingly—with many Democrats praising the work the house majority had done—but hoping to see some changes before it heads to Beshear’s desk.