House GOP budget restores a number of cuts that were in Bevin's proposal

02/28/2018 10:13 PM

FRANKFORT – The House Standing Committee on Appropriations and Revenue passed their revenue bill as well as budget bills for each of the three branches of government on Wednesday night.

In presenting the budget proposal, bill sponsor Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, says that three proposed tax increases would raise $500 million over the next biennium which would fund education programs which had funds slashed under a proposal by Gov. Matt Bevin.

The plans include a 50 cent per pack cigarette tax increase, a 25 cent tax on prescription opioids each time a dosage is sold by a distributor to a pharmacy, and eliminating a $10 individual tax credit.

Examples of where the GOP proposal differs from Bevin’s is that in the proposed budget, is the fact that in the proposed plan, the state would provide $59.5 million for teacher health insurance in the first year, while requiring KTRS to pay everything the second year.

Retired teachers would not have to pay any extra for health insurance during the next biennium.

Bevin had proposed cutting a $145 million state subsidy of health insurance costs for over 8,500 retired teachers who weren’t old enough to qualify for Medicare.

K-12 schools got good news with the GOP proposal which provides $127.8 million for transportation costs. Bevin’s proposal called for cutting some transportation funding.

In addition, the House proposal calls for increasing the SEEK funding per-pupil base to $4,055 in FY 2019 and $4,056 in FY 2020.

The state’s colleges and universities also benefit from the House proposal as the plan calls for restoration of the 6.25 percent of funds which the governor had proposed cutting from university budgets.

A number of programs which the governor has proposed eliminating funding for have been restored under the House GOP proposal including the Kentucky Mesonet Weather Monitoring program at Western Kentucky University, the Kentucky Folk Arts Center at Morehead State, as well as Family Resource and Youth Service Centers.

Additionally, $5.1 million is allocated for Kinship Care and $12.5 for attracting additional social workers which would drop the caseloads from the current 60 per worker to 40.

The proposal also calls for elimination of $100 million in bonds for workforce development.

Another change from Bevin is the judicial budget in which the House went against Bevin’s proposal of increasing salaries for judges.

The House proposal calls for the courts to raise court fees to raise revenue to increase the salaries for judicial staff.

Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, had concerns about not keeping judicial raises in the budget.

“When you talk about the circuit clerk court staff, someone mentioned food stamps, I mean, if they’re not given a living wage, it’s our responsibility to make sure collectively that that’s done,” Wayne said.

Rudy believes that the current House budget proposal, while not pleasing everyone, is a budget the state can live with, especially in the area of education.

“We were able to say at the end of this budget, even though there’s a lot of tough things that have taken place for many agencies, we did not lose sight of it being the taxpayers money, we invested the taxpayers money at an all-time high in k through 12, per pupil guarantees higher than it had ever been before,” Rudy said.

House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook supported the proposal largely because it restored Bevin’s cuts to education.

“I’m voting yes because around $60 million of this money is going to go into a first time increase for the Seek formula to put us over $4,000 for the first time,” Adkins said. “I’m going to vote for this bill because it’s going to restore transportation needs of $127.5 million to transportation of school districts across the Commonwealth of Kentucky that is being threatened to having to shut their doors.”

Rudy believes that the current House budget proposal, while not making everyone happy, will help the state move forward, especially in the area of education.

“We were able to say at the end of this budget, although there were a lot of tough things that have taken place for many agencies, we did not lose sight of it being the taxpayers money, we invested the taxpayers money at an all-time high in K through 12 per pupil guarantee, higher than it had ever been before,” Rudy said.

Rudy said it was important to get a budget proposal in motion because he wants it to lead to the next step, comprehensive tax reform is 2018.

“I am committed to getting that accomplished this session,” Rudy said. “I plan on every A & R committee meeting from here to the end of session, spending time on comprehensive tax reform and looking at the different proposals and avenues and I plan on hopefully, by the middle of next week, having a bill out there that we can look at and start discussing.”

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, says that even though it might be difficult to take on tax reform before the end of the session, getting a budget bill rolling is a good way to possibly making that possible.

“The most important thing was to get the budget moving, to get it into the process, to get it to the Senate and let them continue to work,” Osborne said. “In order to start working on tax reform, start building some consensus, we needed to move the budget, and now I think we go to work to do it and we are 100 percent committed to doing everything we can to have comprehensive tax reform this session.”

Rudy says expect the bills to be passed by the full House on Thursday.

Don Weber

Don Weber is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers politics and education on Pure Politics, Kentucky’s only nightly program dedicated to state politics. Don is a lifelong Kentuckian and a graduate of Northern Kentucky University. He spent many years covering sports in the Northern Kentucky area before shifting primarily to politics. You can watch Don’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. If you have a story idea you can reach Don at donald.weber@charter.com.

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