After weeks of analysis and discussion the House voted to approve House Bill 265 which provides for a two year state budget. The measure adopts the governor’s budget proposal but with slight changes.
The destruction caused by recent storms and tornadoes provides a constant reminder of just how many Kentuckians are suffering tough times. It is never easy to vote for a budget that works to help some but yet requires painful reductions to many other programs and services. Although this budget allows us to meet our financial obligations and insure public safety, it does require another round of cuts.
The $19.5 billion budget calls for an 8.4 percent reduction for the majority of state agencies while requiring a 6.4 percent cut for universities. Funding for Kentucky’s public schools (K-12) would remain at their current levels under the proposed budget.
Also, HB 265 restores funding to the Governor’s Scholars Program, and the Gifted and Talented Program vocational rehabilitation.
The House acted to restore $5 million to help elderly Kentuckians who depend on programs like Meals on Wheels. The House also dedicated $7.5 million to maintain after school programs and other school based initiatives that help our children. To protect public safety, legislators shielded county attorneys and commonwealth attorneys from the governor’s proposed 2.2 percent cut by maintaining their current level of funding.
In an effort to maintain a fiscally responsible budget, HB 265 also:
- Cuts $450 million in bonds for universities.
-Suspends cost-of-living increases for state retirees, allowing the Kentucky Retirement System to save $400 million dollars over the next two years.
-Eliminates a funding proposal to provide $1.5 million to the State Fair Board during the biennium but allows for a $5.5 million appropriation this year.
- The Kentucky Horse Park would receive no funding for the next two years but does receive $3.5 million this year to help offset their $3.6 million deficit.
The state’s structural imbalance was decreased in the House budget bill from approximately $480 million in the current budget to approximately $280 million in fiscal year 2014. To shore up the Kentucky Teacher Retirement System the House budget provides for a $38.7 million case payment for health insurance expenditures for FY-16.
Besides passing the Executive Branch Budget bill (HB 265) by a vote of 78-17, the House also passed the Legislative Branch Budget Bill (HB 268) by a vote of 94-2 and the Judicial Branch Budget Bill (HB 269) by a vote of 90-3. Both the legislative and judicial branches of government will receive an 8.4 percent cut and zero pay increases. All three budget bills will now be considered by the Senate.
It has been a tough week for Kentuckians who were so terrible impacted by the tornadoes last week. Devastated areas were inundated with local, state and federal response teams within hours of the event throughout eastern and northern Kentucky. Donations of much-needed items, supplies and manpower have been non-stop into the affected areas and cash contributions for recovery efforts are mounting. Members and staff from the Kentucky House of Representatives have collected funds for the victims which expect to exceed $20,000. Efforts will be ongoing as we help our neighbors and friends recover from this traumatic event.
You can stay informed of legislative action on bills of interest to you by logging onto the legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll- free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.