Bevin announces deep cuts and program reductions, but pension funding and other investments in budget address

01/16/2018 07:35 PM

FRANKFORT — Gov. Matt Bevin, R-Kentucky, announced deep cuts, but increased spending in other areas in his 2018 State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address to the General Assembly.

Bevin’s budget proposal, which is expected to be filed as a bill on Wednesday, calls for spending reductions in almost all areas of state government, with an across-the-board cut of 6.25 percent to most agencies. He’s also proposing “strategic cuts” to programs and the the complete elimination of 70 programs, according to a press release.

The Republican, who has called on former House Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, and three other GOP lawmakers who settled a sexual harassment claim to resign, said early in his speech that “we are under assault,” and “divided” over morality and spirituality.

Bevin’s proposal also calls for investments, including:

  • $3.31 billion over the biennium to fully fund state employee and teacher pension plans;
  • $100 million in bond pool funding for a second round of workforce skills training;
  • $34 million in new funding from tobacco settlement funds to fight the opioid epidemic and substance abuse;
  • $24 million to add positions and increase salaries for Kentucky’s social workers;

*$10.8 million in new funding for adoption and foster children supports; and funding for 75 new commonwealth and county attorneys and 51 new public advocates to strengthen the criminal justice system.

Bevin did not reveal which programs would be cut in this speech.

Bevin’s budget address calls or maintaining the current $3,981 per student Support Education Excellence in Kentucky (SEEK) allocation. The Governor also called on districts to utilize some of their reserve funds for transportation and other needs. He also expects them to reduce their administrative overhead and to pay a portion of their employees’ health insurance. By reducing the costs at the local level allowed the administration to reduce General Fund support for transportation and employee health insurance.

In his address, Bevin added the “right people” need to be on the bus in state government.

“Not everyone who works in state government are needed in the long term,” he said, adding that most are needed.

The Governor’s budget also dedicates 100 percent of lottery funds to education. This budget will return an additional $7.7 million of coal severance funds directly back to coal counties. The KLEFPF fund remains fully dedicated to supporting law enforcement and firefighters, and the recently increased $4,000 annual training stipend has been retained. Kentucky State Police will receive upgrades to dangerous and outdated cruisers and rifles, and a modern statewide communications system for law enforcement will be funded. In addition, the budget closes the film incentive program to new applicants, according to a news release before the speech.

Bevin also noted that “some” budget reductions could be avoided if the General Assembly enacts meaningful pension reform this session. Tax reform could also have significant impact and lead to a less austere budget. Gov. Bevin emphasized that he is calling for “genuine tax reform” that will make Kentucky more competitive with its neighboring states, according the the release.

“Tax reform is coming,” he said, adding it won’t simply be raising some taxes.

Budget documents are available here.

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