Posts Tagged ‘General Assembly’

The Budget Debate Begins

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Like many Kentuckians reviewing their family finances for a potential big purchase this year, state lawmakers are considering how much debt they’re willing to incur to move the state forward.

In his budget address last week, Gov. Steve Beshear proposed $1.96 billion in new debt to help fund a number of construction projects. That would put the state’s debt ratio (the amount of money borrowed as a percentage of the General Fund) at just over 7 percent, slightly above where it stands now and a point higher than the 6 percent debt capacity level favored by some legislators.

During yesterday’s Kentucky Tonight discussion about the budget, the panel debated spending priorities for the state and the best ways to pay for those items. The guests were Sen. Bob Leeper (I-Paducah), chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee; Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford), chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee; House Minority Whip John Carney (R-Campbellsville); and Sen. Ray Jones (D-Pikeville).

The group raised other concerns about the governor’s budget plan, including paying for the wage increase for teachers and other school personnel like bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Carney, who’s a teacher in Taylor County, applauds the idea but says the raise itself may consume most if not all of the SEEK funding increase proposed for primary and secondary schools. “Some districts would have enough money to cover both that teacher raise and a classified [employee] raise,” explained Carney. “But most districts I’ve spoken to, that would only be enough money to basically do the mandated teacher raise and the local districts then would be subject to have to do the mandated classified raise. So it could be it could be a net loss in some ways, in terms of monies.”

On the revenue side of the budget equation, the panel agreed that tax reform is needed, especially if it can be done in a way to make Kentucky’s business climate competitive with neighboring states. But the group disagreed on expanded gambling as a source of additional revenue: Rand favors the idea, while Carney, Jones, and Leeper oppose it.

Several of the seven House subcommittees that handle budget matters have started collecting testimonies and data that will be folded into the lower chamber’s budget plan. Rep. Rand said he hopes to have that document ready to send to the Senate the first week of March. He challenged his colleagues to be bold in building the new budget. “It’s time to think where do we want to be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 50 years from now,” Rand said. “If we set our expectations too low, we’re going to get the same thing that we’ve always got.”

Lawmakers Face Tough Financial Choices

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

As we get closer to the start of the 2014 legislative session, it continues to be abundantly clear that Kentucky lawmakers are facing a difficult budget year.

For the past two days in Frankfort, key members of Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget staff have briefed House Democrats and Republicans on the challenges ahead. As we discussed yesterday on Kentucky Tonight, Budget Director Jane Driskell has told lawmakers details about the 2014-16 budget that could mean more spending cuts across many state agencies.

Legislators don’t have many options for generating new money in the next two years. Two ideas up for discussion by the General Assembly are comprehensive tax reform and a constitutional amendment to allow expanded gambling in the Commonwealth.

On Kentucky Tonight, a caller from Warren County proposed an idea about updating the tax codes that he thought legislators should consider.

Kentucky Tonight returns on Monday, January 6 with a preview of the upcoming General Assembly session. Our scheduled guests are Senate President Robert Stivers, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover, and Senate Minority Leader R. J. Palmer.

Scrooge and the Kentucky State Budget

Monday, December 16th, 2013

It’s not just the Charles Dickens character with a “Bah! Humbug!” message these days. In fact, it’s difficult to come up with anything cheerful when you look at the financial picture facing the Commonwealth in 2014. Last week, State Budget Director Jane Driskell warned business leaders that spending needs will clearly surpass expected revenues in the coming year.

So bleak it is and bleak it will be when the General Assembly returns to Frankfort on January 7 to hear Gov. Beshear deliver his State of the Commonwealth address. His state budget speech is scheduled to follow on January 21.

Tonight, on our last Kentucky Tonight of 2013, four legislators will be in the studio to discuss our troubled finances, possible cuts to some state agencies, and the attempt to restore funds to education. Our scheduled guests are State Rep. Rick Rand (D-Bedford), chair of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee; State Sen. David Givens (R-Greensburg), vice chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee; State Sen. Robin Webb (D-Grayson); and State Rep. Steven Rudy (R-West Paducah).

Please tune in tonight at 8 on KET for the discussion. And you can join the conversation with your questions about the state budget, pension and education funding, or Medicaid costs facing Kentucky. Just give us a call during the program at 800-494-7605, or you can reach us on Twitter or by email at

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