Budget unveils lot of good ideas, not enough money

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From the House/Rep. Russell Webber

 FRANKFORT - The top issue of the 2014 Regular Session started its journey this past week, as Governor Steve Beshear laid out his thoughts and ideas for a new two-year budget for the Commonwealth.

Education, which a majority of members in the General Assembly view as in dire need of more money, would receive an additional $71 million in the first year of the budget, Fiscal Year 2015, and $118 million in Fiscal Year 2016 under the Governor’s proposed budget.

It also provides nearly $48 million for items like textbooks, professional development, extended school services, and school safety.

It also allots $18 million per year to expand pre-school services, and $111 million over two years toward the Child Care Assistance Program.

The Governor’s budget wish list also provides raises for teachers: 2 percent in FY2015, and 1 percent in FY2016, and raises for state employees which uses a staggered formula of 5 percent salary raises for the lowest paid employees and 1 percent for the highest in the first year, and 1 percent overall the second year.

And it provides $7 million for employee raises in the judicial branch.

His budget address also includes funds for improvements within our community and technical college system, economic development, and road projects like completion of widening I-65, and extending the four-lane section of the Mountain Parkway from Campton to Prestonsburg.

But for all the good news, there is also bad news.

The Governor proposes increased funding in these and other areas by cutting most agency budgets 5 percent, and the Kentucky State Police and higher universities budgets by 2.5 percent.

By adding the 5percent, most state agencies have seen a 41 percent cut in the last eight years.

And the Governor also proposes bonding a combined $1.96 billion to cover the increased spending.

The problem is it not only continues the issue of borrowing and spending that has plagued state government for many years, but the fact that Kentucky has the third worst bond rating in the nation.

I believe most Kentuckians would not support this idea in the face of continued slow growth in our economy.

The Governor’s proposed budget is not set in stone, and it will undergo many changes in the House and Senate before a final version is reached.

What we do know is unless we begin taking the bold steps to make our Commonwealth more business friendly, like taking up comprehensive tax reform, our budget and people will continue to suffer.

I welcome your comments and concerns on any issues impacting our Commonwealth during the 2014 Regular Session.

I can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at 1-800-372-7181, or you can contact me via e-mail at russell.webber@lrc.ky.gov. 

You can keep track of committee meetings and potential legislation through the Kentucky Legislature Home Page at www.lrc.ky.gov, and I also encourage you to follow the House Republican Caucus on Facebook and Twitter.