Budget is top priority

Published:

Glasgow Daily Times

This new year marked lawmakers return to Frankfort for the 2006 General Assembly.

As always, a new year offers new hope that legislators will be able to put aside party differences and work in the best interest of Kentuckians.

Bitter partisanship in past sessions fueled by the fact the Senate and governors office are Republican controlled while the House has a Democrat majority has thrice resulted in the failure to pass a budget.

That should be priority No. 1 this year, as the state as a whole suffers when careful planning is not given to fund worthwhile projects. Revenues are up from previous years, but still too little for completing all the requests and needs. It will take hard work to put together a budget that improves the quality of life for all Kentuckians, but it must be done this year.

Of course, there are several other areas that will need to be discussed in detail to find solutions, such as Medicare and the prison and jail populations.

Lawmakers should find an adequate but compassionate solution to the Medicare shortfall, which keeps many in the state from being able to afford necessary prescriptions.

Populations in jails and prisons continue to grow and counties are hard pressed for relief. Lawmakers will have to find a way to relieve the pressure on the counties without increasing the burden of the taxpayer. Granted, thats not an enviable position to be in during an election year.

However, money could be saved by abandoning the constant push for gambling at Kentuckys race tracks. Lawmakers argue that Kentucky dollars are setting sail on gambling barges in neighboring Indiana or Illinois, but we dont think Kentucky is missing the boat.

Gambling only increases the plight of the poor who often hope to fix everything with one card, or pull on a slot machine.

When the state initiated the lottery, it was supposed to be a windfall for education. However, state universities have commonly raised tuition by as much as 15 percent in recent years, which begs one to question where the millions are going.

When crafting the budget, legislators should keep in mind funding for education at all levels without banking on a gambling system that only adds to the problem.

Only with sound decisions on how tax dollars are spent will schools live up to the slogan, Kentucky, Where Education Pays.

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