Kentucky House budget proposal takes shape

Shifts funds, asks for $1 million more than Gov. Beshear’s plan

By Kevin Wheatley, Published:

The House gave the first glimpse of specifics in its $20 billion budget proposal Monday as six budget subcommittee chairpersons recommended a number of changes to Gov. Steve Beshear’s biennial budget plan.

Rep. Rick Rand, chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, said the House’s two-year spending plan is “virtually the same” as Beshear’s proposal, though it expends about $1 million more than the governor requested and shifts funds in various areas. The House version will add about $1 million to the budget reserve trust fund, he said.

“Most of his (Beshear’s) large and primary initiatives will remain virtually intact,” said Rand, D-Bedford.

But there are some key differences in the plans. For example, the House’s budget proposal will restore $31.8 million in funding for property valuation administrators in lieu of increasing fees on special taxing districts as recommended by Beshear. Property valuation administrators would also receive an additional $2 million in the biennium under the House plan.

Rand said property valuation administrators “made a strong case” for the extra $2 million, and taxing districts, such as libraries and health departments, protested increased fees in the upcoming biennium.

“I got letter after letter after letter from all over the state from fire departments and all special districts saying, ‘We just can’t afford to do that; our budgets won’t allow it,’” Rand said.

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee will likely consider the budget bill at a meeting today, Rand said, adding the House could consider the spending plan Wednesday.

The subcommittee chairpersons recommended increased spending in a number of areas of the House’s budget proposal compared to Beshear’s. For instance, the House plan calls for an additional:

>$10 million in the Legislative Research Commission budget.

>$1.6 million over the biennium for enhanced 911 emergency services.

>$6.1 million for commonwealth’s attorneys and county attorneys.

>$2 million for family resource centers and volunteer services.

>$10 million to increase foster parent rates.

>$6 million to increase private child care provider rates.

>$2 million in debt service support for the Department of Parks maintenance pool.

The House plan would maintain Beshear’s call to cut many state agencies’ budgets by 5 percent and universities’ budgets by 2.5 percent.

Rand declined to specify how the House shifted funds to increase spending in various areas. The only direct budget reduction proposed Monday was a $300,000 cut in Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Len Peters’ budget.

“We’ll roll that out with the budget tomorrow,” Rand said.

Funding for education initiatives was a focal point of Beshear’s proposed budget, but the House will reduce by millions of dollars two aspects of the governor’s spending plan.

The House version of the budget calls for $13 million each year in preschool services for 4-year-olds whose families’ incomes are within 160 percent of the federal poverty level — $10 million less in the biennium than proposed by Beshear.

Spending on new textbooks would also take a $10 million hit in the House proposal. It would direct $16.7 million per year to textbooks rather than the $21.7 million each year Beshear had called for.

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