Some parts of government could be pruned to allow education spending to grow

01/07/2014 11:31 PM

Gov. Steve Beshear made another call for an increase in education funding during his State of the Commonwealth Address on Thursday, pointing (again) to tax reform and/or casino gambling as a way to generate revenue.

But what key conservative lawmakers latched onto was another sentence in Beshear’s 50-minute speech.

“I am determined to find money to re-invest in education even if I have to make harmful cuts in other areas to do so,” Beshear said.

In effect, Beshear made it clear to his captive audience of lawmakers that he wouldn’t let them leave Frankfort in April without a two-year budget that increases money for schools.

“If we continue to cut or freeze education funding, our schools face the prospect of laying off significant numbers of teachers, greatly increasing classroom sizes and letting technology and equipment grow more outdated and useless. We’re in danger of losing all of the positive momentum, which has been built up. And I am not going to allow that to happen,” he said, sparking applause.

After the speech, Republican Senate President Robert Stivers and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo reserved comment until Beshear unveils his budget proposal with more details in two weeks. But both made it clear that most state agencies won’t get what they’re asking for.

Last week, Senate Republican Floor Leader Damon Thayer said he didn’t see a need to increase education funding because he said he doesn’t want to see a net increase in state spending.

After Beshear’s speech Tuesday night, Thayer said he would be willing to support a slight increase in education funding — which takes up 44 percent of state revenue — in exchange for deep cuts to other areas of government.

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