Legislative perspective on budget negotiations by Rep. Larry Clark
Last week House and Senate leaders announced that budget negotiations had reached an impasse but are committed to reaching a deal before the April 15th deadline. The House budget proposal has less debt and put more money directly into the pension system and protects public education from devastating and unnecessary cuts.
Despite strong economic numbers and job growth, in the spirit of compromise, the House agreed to steep cuts across much of state government, but draws the line at education. Following years of cuts to education during economic downtimes, the House will not balance the budget on the backs of Kentucky’s teachers, students and families.
The Governor has proposed a $500 discretionary fund that the House will not agree to. Colleges and universities are economic engines and should be supported. Growing our skilled, educated workforce is a top priority for House Democrats. We have $908 million in new revenue growth and the time to invest in education is now. The Governor’s proposed 9% cuts to higher education would create tuition hikes of at least $1,000 for each academic year per student. House Democrats stand by the creation of “Work Ready Kentucky”, where every student deserves the opportunity to go to college and have economic opportunity.
Included in the House proposal is fully funding the pension obligation for teachers and state employees. Our budget includes $1 billion in new money; none of it bonded to shore up the pension system. We have proposed to fund the judicial branch budget at the requested level for essential services, an additional $60 million. In addition, the House budget has less debt than the Governor’s and the rainy day fund would be the largest ever, growing from $209 to $283 million.
The bottom line is that funds are available now to fully fund our pension system and invest in education. We have not seen any willingness to compromise from the Governor. The House and Senate will reconvene on April 12th in the hopes that compromise can be reached and a budget will be passed for the next fiscal year.