With little spare change to work with, House to make few changes to governor's budget proposal

02/26/2012 06:13 PM

House Democratic leaders are looking at “fine tuning” the governor’s budget recommendations but with a lack of available cash, won’t be making substantial changes, said the House budget chairman on Sunday.

“It’s going to be almost the exact opposite from the past budget. We basically built it from the ground up. This one is going to be a little more fine tuning is probably a good way to describe it,” Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, told reporters Sunday afternoon during a break in the closed-door meeting among House leaders.

Even some of the programs Beshear tagged for potential spending increases might make it through the next round. That includes nearly $21 million over the next two years to hire more social workers and more money to cover the cost of preschool for an additional 4,000 children. That would affect children whose families earn between 150 percent and 160 percent of the poverty level.

“There’s a likelihood part if not all of that money will stay in,” he said.

It also means the majority of the governor’s proposed cuts — 8.4 percent to many agencies and 6.4 percent to public colleges and universities — will stay in place.

“In large, they will,” Rand said. He said the chairman of the subcommittees on each area made recommendations. Rep. Arnold Simpson, a Covington Democrat who heads up the panel overseeing college and university funding, didn’t recommend reducing the levels of cuts to those institutions, Rand said.

“And there will be no pay increases … I just don’t see any way that we can afford to do any pay increases in this budget,” Rand said.

Rand said House leaders have not yet analyzed proposed construction projects, which factor into the state’s debt.

House leaders went through four of the budget areas Friday afternoon, then picked up with three more Sunday afternoon. They were preparing to hear an overview of the transportation cabinet’s budget and road fund Sunday evening.

They hope to unveil their recommendations for changes to other House Democrats by the end of this week and take it up in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee between Tuesday, March 6, and Thursday, March 8.

Rand said there would be “an outside chance” that the House budget might factor in some savings from altering the cost of living adjustment for state retirees’ pensions. As for other pension changes, wider reforms will likely be taken up over the rest of the year by Rep. Mike Cherry, D-Princeton and the House state government committee chairman:

Rand also said without political groundwork being laid for changing the tax code, it’s not likely the House version will include new revenue.


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