Santa won't be stopping by the governor's office

Beshear must find school funding on his own

Published:

Santa Claus came to The Frankfort Christian Academy Monday, but he wasn’t wearing a big red suit and driving a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

He was just an ordinary-looking person delivering a not-so-ordinary package.

The delivery was a letter to be read at that night’s meeting of the school’s board, thanking the facility for the work it does. Enclosed was a donation to the school’s capital campaign for $100,000.

The magnanimous gesture by an anonymous donor will be used to help purchase new heating and air units for the school.

We wish Gov. Steve Beshear would open his Christmas stocking to find newfound money as The Frankfort Christian Academy did. Beshear and his staff are hard at work crunching numbers for the state’s biennial budget, which will be voted on by members of the Legislature during the 2014 session that begins in January.

There have been some encouraging signs in the economy lately, but we are a long way from having enough in the state’s general fund to adequately finance every important program.

The governor must start the process with $100 million needed to fund the actuarially required contribution to Kentucky Retirement Systems, which was mandated as part of the pension reform act passed during this year’s session.

Past Legislative sessions borrowed from Peter to pay Paul, leaving the state’s retirement system as one of the worst funded in the nation, with enough assets to cover just 23.2 percent of its retirement obligations.

This will mark the first time since 2002 the state has made its full payment to the retirement system.

In a media address Tuesday to discuss the budget, Beshear said he is committed to restoring funding for K-12 education, even if it means cuts to other agencies and programs.

We believe there is nothing more vital than funding for education, and have heard the numerous stories of schools forced to use old textbooks and equipment, delay maintenance projects and cut staff because of shrinking funding.

A quality education system represents a trickle-up theory, where a better educated and skilled populous lead to better skilled workers, which lead to companies more willing to locate, hire and expand in the state.

The obvious question is: Where will the money come from?

The obvious answer is: From making cuts in other areas.

Beshear and his budget team will, again obviously, have to make cuts in other places to restore funding to education. And it goes without saying no agency, no program, no group will be anxious to give up a single dollar.

At this point, we are willing to wait until Beshear releases his proposed budget before making suggestions, in part to see the severity of the proposed cuts. Will they be flesh wounds or will they cut to the bone?

Of course an alternative to cuts is new revenue sources, but we aren’t optimistic those will materialize in this session. It seems the enthusiasm for expanded gaming has waned, the recommendations of the blue-ribbon panel on tax reform sit gathering dust, and we expect the electorate is not warming to the local option sales tax proposal.

Teachers and students deserve the proper tools. We await hearing where the funding for those tools will come from.

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  • That wasn't Santa...that was Jesus.