K-12, postsecondary education will get extra attention in House biennial spending plan, budget chairman says

02/13/2016 08:49 PM

FRANKFORT — After hearing testimony from University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto on the the possible affects of Gov. Matt Bevin’s proposed ‘draconian’ budget cuts this week, the chairman of the House of Representatives’ budget committee says the chamber will look to restore funding reductions for K-12 and postsecondary education in its version of the biennial spending plan.

Bevin is calling for 4.5 percent cuts in many areas of state government in the current fiscal year, transitioning to a 9 percent spending reduction over the biennium. That’s primarily a tool for Bevin to increase contributions to the state’s underfunded pensions for state workers and teachers, although he has said he’s willing to allow agencies time to implement cuts.

The Democrat-held House and GOP-controlled Senate have begun holding hearings on the governor’s austere budget, but the lower chamber will get the first opportunity to mark-up the document.

“I think the House has always valued education, so I think in terms of K-12 and higher education we’re going to be looking to restoring some of those cuts,” Rep. Rick Rand, a Bedford Democrat and chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said Friday.

Rand couldn’t say exactly how much he expects the House to tinker with Bevin’s funding proposals for K-12 postsecondary education, and when asked where he planned to draw money to finance those moves, he suggested that they could be absorbed within the recommended cabinet spending reductions.

“Some of those cabinets are going to suffer, but the cabinet secretaries are telling us they can manage that,” he said. “I expect we’re going to ask some of them to do just that.”

Bevin’s proposed General Fund appropriations over the biennium will shrink for all but one public university, with Northern Kentucky University benefitting from the governor’s call to address disparities in higher education funding. The Highland Heights institution will see its General Fund appropriation increase $965,800 to $49.5 million.

Western Kentucky University is set to benefit from that policy as well if it’s enacted in the final budget, but it’s General Fund dollars will drop by $4.1 million to $70.5 million next fiscal year in Bevin’s proposal. UK, the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System will see their yearly allotments drop $25.2 million, $13.9 million and $17.1 million, respectively.

While Bevin’s spending plan increases SEEK funding for K-12 schools by $39 million, other areas in the Department of Education face cuts.

Preschool funding will be down $4.1 million in yearly dollars, and family resource and youth services centers, Next Generation Learner programs and textbooks face cuts of $2.3 million, $2.1 million and $751,500 in annual funding, respectively.

Capilouto also expressed concerns with Bevin’s call for 100 percent performance-based funding for postsecondary institutions, and Rand says he shares those misgivings, particularly since details of how higher education funds will be doled out haven’t been crafted.

Bevin has set aside a third of postsecondary funding totaling $282.5 million into an outcomes-based funding pool for fiscal year 2018.

Rand said the House is “not likely to move forward on that” without more details on how institutions would be funded.

“I think it’s unlikely or not even wise to the universities to commit 100 percent of their base budget to performance-based funding,” he said. “… If he can’t send someone over here to give us more detail on that, we’re not likely to move that forward.”

But legislative leaders like Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, have say they believe Bevin’s proposal for performance-based funding can be included in this year’s budget and hashed out in the months ahead.

In fact, that’s exactly what Bevin says he envisioned in drafting the two-year spending plan.

“If you listened to my budget address, what I called for was over the course of the next 18 months, 17 now, to come up with a truly thoughtful outcomes-based funding formula that involves input from each and every one of our university presidents that would affected and to make that effective starting in fiscal year 2018,” Bevin said during a press conference outside his Capitol office Thursday.

Bevin has said he will not sign a biennial spending plan that strays far from his original proposal, and he reiterated that Thursday in saying a two-year spending plan must include outcomes-based funding for postsecondary education.

But despite his objections to pieces of the first-year Republican’s proposal, Rand says the House doesn’t have any make-or-break items at this point that could stall budget talks.

“I know Gov. Bevin has dug his heels in and has said he’ll veto anything that’s not to his liking, and you know, you really can’t do a budget that way, in my opinion, because it’s full of compromises,” Rand said.

“That’s just the way the system’s designed to work,” he added. “You know, I don’t think we have anything that’s going to be a deal-buster one way or another, but there are things that we will stand for, education being the top one.”

Stumbo has said the House will pass its version of the biennial budget around March 15, with an April 15 deadline looming for the General Assembly.


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