Senate takes many items out of budget

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From the House

By Rep. Linda Belcher

    FRANKFORT – As expected, the final full week of the 2010 Regular Session ended with the focus returning to the General Assembly’s top priority, the two-year state government budget.

    House and Senate leaders began working toward common ground on Wednesday afternoon, and if all goes as scheduled, a compromise should be ready for a final vote this coming week.

    Our biggest objection to the changes the Senate made to the House budget is the deletion of the “Kentucky Jobs for Kentucky Families” program, a $1 billion plan that would build new schools and infrastructure and create 25,000 jobs.

    Other cuts proposed by the Senate include an additional $48 million in state contracts, more cuts in Medicaid and an additional 2.5 percent cut across state government. These deep cuts would push Kentucky back decades and place further burden on our citizens already struggling with healthcare costs and rising unemployment.

    The House also does not want to cut classroom funding.  We have been able to shield our schools from the worst of the economic downturn, and while there are some difficult days still in front of us, we need to keep protecting education as much as possible.

    For Bullitt County, the House budget contained $2.5 million for water and sewer projects, $1.77 million for the plan design phase for our college and $7 million to renovate Maryville Elementary.

    Even though the Senate stripped these from its budget, I am hopeful that our House leadership team will be able to put them back in the final budget.

    I have also made a request to fully fund our family resource and youth services centers and Read to Achieve.  The road budget is still in the Senate.

    Just as the budget is moving toward resolution, other bills are nearing the end of their journey as well. One set to be law soon will make it a felony for those working in a prison to have sex with an inmate.

    Kentucky is only one of three states where this is still a misdemeanor, so this change is certainly warranted, especially in light of allegations of sexual misconduct in one of our privately run prisons last year.

    On Wednesday, the governor signed into law legislation that would ease the financial burden of cancer patients enrolled in clinical trials.

    This change will ensure that the patients are not denied insurance coverage for routine health expenses that normally would be covered if they were not part of the trial.

    These Kentuckians are helping to move medicine forward and should not be penalized for their willingness to contribute to potentially life-saving research.

    With academics in mind, Kentucky got great news this past week when we learned that our fourth and eighth graders made more progress in reading last year than students in any other state.

    This news came from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which provides what is called the “Nation’s Report Card.”

    Not only are we climbing fast, but Kentucky’s scores in both grades are also above the national average.

    Next week, I will provide more background on the budget and other new laws that the House and Senate have approved.  In the few days we have left, I would still appreciate hearing from you. My address is Room 351B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.  If you have a Facebook account online, I can be found by searching for “Representative Linda Belcher.”

    You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181.  For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305, and the Spanish line is 866-840-6574.  If you would like to know the status of a particular bill, that number is 866-840-2835.  All of these are toll-free.

    I hope to hear from you soon.