Blocking education cuts was key because schools already are being shorted, Palmer says

03/31/2011 06:17 PM

Avoiding additional cuts to education was important because Kentucky school children already are facing a shortfall in the state formula used to fund schools, said state Senate Minority Leader R.J. Palmer.

“Because of a miscalculation in attendance, the SEEK formula was $50 million underfunded during 2011,” Palmer, a Winchester Democrat, said on Pure Politics on Thursday. “But it was also, I believe, $28 underfunded in 2012.”

He said that was one reason Senate Democrats joined House Democrats and Republicans to oppose suggested cuts to education that the Senate Republicans included in their proposal to balance this year’s Medicaid budget in the special session in late March.

Palmer just spent his first session as the Democrats leader.

It was a difficult first session for Palmer, a Democrat from Winchester. Senate Democrats are far out-numbered by the Republican majority, 23 (including independent Sen. Bob Leeper) to 15.

Palmer says he still isn’t sure why the Republicans wouldn’t budge from including cuts to education in their Medicaid fix proposal.

“I’ve asked myself that question. I’m not certain. Although I think that their approach is, in order to avoid greater possibly greater cuts next year, that they would go ahead and implement cuts now,” Palmer said.

Palmer, though, said he believes Republican Senate President David Williams is still an education supporter. Williams was one of the few Republican lawmakers in 1990 who voted for the Kentucky Education Reform Act that included a tax increase to fund it.

“I think David’s a supporter of education, I don’t question that. But his approach is simply to cut across the board and everyone has to share,” Palmer said.

Palmer said the Democratic caucus is still adjusting to trying to get its positions heard by the majority and is just starting to plan for its 2012 agenda.

“It doesn’t mean that our position is any less important,” Palmer says. “The 15 of us in the Senate Democratic caucus still represent over a million and a half people in the state. And they have a right to have their voice heard.”

But the practical part of that usually means a plan is made by the majority, and the minority can either get on board or complain on the floor about it later.

“Most of the time those conversations were had after the Senate majority had decided what direction they wanted to go. They did try to come and brief us and tell us what their plan entailed. But at that point, there isn’t much input on what the final product is,” Palmer said.


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