Posts Tagged ‘Gov. Steve Beshear’

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.”

Moving Forward on SOAR Goals

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

Last night in his budget address, Gov. Steve Beshear affirmed his commitment to help revitalize eastern Kentucky when he pledged funding for two key initiatives touted in last month’s Saving Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Summit in Pikeville.

Today, the governor and Congressman Hal Rogers spoke with reporters about the broadband project. Rogers, the chairman of the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, said that the omnibus budget bill signed into law by Congress last week included $10 million for broadband deployment in distressed Appalachian counties in Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

“I’m hopeful that this will be the beginning of federal investments for broadband in our hard-hit coalfields,” Rogers said.

Rogers explained that the Center for Rural Development in Somerset has spent two years researching high-speed, high-capacity fiber cable for the region. He said the current plan is to hook into the national broadband grid in Cincinnati and bring that service to eastern Kentucky.

Rogers said high-speed internet access is critical to boosting the region’s status in the world market. “It takes away our historic barriers to better jobs, the difficult terrain and isolation, and all of a sudden the world is flat and the famed superior work ethic of our people will be able to compete with the world from home.”

The eastern Kentucky project will be tied into Beshear’s overall plan to lay some 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure access to the entire state. The governor’s office says only about half of the state’s households use broadband service, and nearly one-quarter can’t access broadband at all. The broadband project should provide internet service at speeds of up to 100 gigabits per second to homes and businesses across the Commonwealth. The governor said that he and Rogers are committed to ensuring that the service will be affordably priced.

Specific details on the eastern Kentucky portion of the roll-out are expected in the next few months.

Kentucky Tonight Previews Legislative Session

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

For our first Kentucky Tonight program of 2014, we’ll preview the legislative session that starts this week in Frankfort. The show airs Monday at 8 p.m. on KET, and I hope you’ll be a part of the discussion with your question or comment. Just give us a call during the show at 800-494-7605, or you can reach us on Twitter @KYTonightKET or by email.

We’ll also have live coverage of Gov. Steve Beshear’s State of the Commonwealth address to a joint session of the General Assembly. Join Renee Shaw and me Tuesday night at 7 on KET and KET.org/live.


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