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Sen. Hornback’s Frankfort recap

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By Sen. Paul Hornback

FRANKFORT – Friday marked the 59th day of the session’s 60 working days of the 2012 Regular Session of the Kentucky General Assembly. We now wait for final passage of the state’s six-year road plan. We spent this final week of the session wrapping up some of the biggest priorities of the year. 

Senate-House budget committee conferees began meeting on Monday morning to iron out differences between chamber-approved budgets. They reached an agreement in Thursday’s early morning hours.  The latest version of the budget plan will be voted on today, and must be approved by the full General Assembly before heading to the Governor.

We purposed ourselves to keep our belt tightened regardless of the pressures.  There are many good and worthwhile programs out there but the fact is we simply cannot afford it; we do not have the dollars. So, we did the best we could and made the same sorts of decisions occurring around kitchen tables and businesses across the Commonwealth. This final budget includes those unavoidable 8.4% cuts for most state agencies that the Governor recommended, with the same exemptions for critical areas like Medicaid and Corrections. State universities would see a 6.4% reduction, and K-12 schools would receive full base-line funding.  State employees will receive no raises. The Governor is required to find $40 million a year in efficiencies. We also significantly reduced the state’s structural imbalance to under $200 million. The final budget contains less debt than either the Governor or the House proposed and more money in the Rainy Day Fund. 

The state’s six-year road plan which includes $3.7 billion over the next biennium for the repair and maintenance of Kentucky’s roads is still being considered in a conference committee. While each county will have its own projects, we are hopeful that funding to help complete vital bridges work in Louisville as well as $200 million to continue ongoing improvements on a busy and deadly section of I-65 in western Kentucky.

We also wanted to continue preparing Kentucky for a stronger, more prosperous future.  House Bill 495 provides a solution for paying the interest to the Federal Government on Kentucky’s unemployment insurance loan of $960 million and putting our fund on a sustainable path. In order to repay the loan, the House proposed a $21 per employee annual surcharge to prevent a $400 per employee Federal penalty. The Senate added language that provides our businesses an unemployment insurance tax decrease to help recover the costs. Once the debt is repaid and the trust fund is over $200 million, state taxes in current law will be deferred to enable our businesses to do what they do best – create jobs.

House Bill 300 changes the make-up of the board of the Kentucky state employee retirement system by placing term limits on the board and staggering the terms of the board members, requiring investment placement agents to register as executive branch lobbyists and requiring a state audit every five years. This will add transparency and accountability to the process.

We’ll reconvene to finish our final day in April when we’ll have the opportunity to override any vetoes the Governor may enact on these and the dozens of other bills we passed this week.  In the meantime, I encourage you to visit our website at www.lrc.ky.gov and review all the work we’ve done so far.  If you would like to share your thoughts on any bill, you may call our Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181.