The director of one of Kentucky’s leading non-profit economic policy think tanks says the recently-passed state budget fails to address the state’s revenue problem.
Jason Bailey, the director of the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, says the budget, which includes five percent cuts to over a dozen state agencies, reflects the 14th round of harmful cuts since 2008, and doesn't do enough to generate new revenue.
“There are areas that have been time after time after time, so I think for higher education, for human services, for areas like environmental and public and worker protection, I think those systems will be frayed even further by the cuts that we’ve seen.”
Bailey adds that the revenue bill passed by the legislature that gives tax breaks to the bourbon industry and beer and wine wholesalers aren’t worth the cuts to important state agencies.
Kentucky’s Council on Postsecondary Education is already tailoring its next state budget request to include performance funding for state universities.
The General Assembly did not include the CPE’s request for performance funding in its two-year spending plan that awaits the governor’s signature. CPE President Bob King says the performance funding request was among several suggestions to bring more money to the state’s universities.
“One of those purposes was to create a pot of money that would be distributed to the campuses tied to the proportion of degrees that they produced,” he said. “And there was a premium for students who earned degrees in the STEM field—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—or in health fields because we know that our workforce needs people with those skills quite substantially.”
King says in addition to going over this legislative session’s budget to determine the tuition cap for state universities, the CPE is working on its funding request for the next session.
A bill that would raise penalties for heroin traffickers and expand addiction treatment is on shaky ground in the Kentucky General Assembly.
The proposed legislation barely passed a House committee due to concerns over language that would charge drug dealers with homicide in overdose deaths. House State Government Committee chair Brent Yonts says there are “major problems” with the constitutionality of charging dealers for the deaths of people they’re never met.
“One who sells heroin foresees that it’s bad and will kill, and they’re potentially liable for that death even though they may be three people distant from the one who actually gave it or sold it to the one who died,” said Yonts.
Yonts says without changes, he doesn’t think the bill will pass. A bill last year was killed over similar concerns.
Kentucky’s highest-ranking Democratic lawmaker says language in the state’s budget that attempts to pull funding for the Affordable Care Act won’t kill the program.
Kentucky is set to begin paying a portion of the cost for expanded Medicaid and the health-insurance exchange in 2017. Provisions in the recently-passed state budget bar state money from going toward the program.
But House Speaker Greg Stumbo says it's largely symbolic.
“We know that that would have been probably something that we’d still been there debating, and so after reviewing the language and reviewing the governor’s implementation of what we call ‘Beshear Care,’ we didn’t feel like that this language would be egregious to the governor in moving forward.”
The governor’s office spearheaded Kentucky’s implementation of the ACA, but has declined to comment on the budget language.
After winning speedy approval in the Senate, the Kentucky House has given final passage of the state’s $20 billion two-year budget.
Lawmakers passed a series of budget bills funding the legislative, judicial and executive branches of state government with minimal debate, and earlier than they have in previous years.
The budget bills will head to Gov. Steve Beshear’s desk for approval. They largely preserve his efforts to fund K-12 education at the cost of other state programs.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo hailed the compromise with the Senate as an example of how democracy can work.
“The gridlock and the stalemate that’s engulfed both parties in Washington didn’t make it’s way to Kentucky. It worked," Stumbo said, to applause from fellow lawmakers. "And you can go home tonight and you can look your constituents in the eye while you’re on this veto break and you can say it worked. We did what you paid us to do.”
Lawmakers will now break for two weeks until returning April 14 for a veto session.
Doctors at two Kentucky research hospitals can prescribe medicine derived from marijuana oil to treat child seizures under a bill that cleared the General Assembly on Monday.
The bill would allow Kentuckians to use cannabidiol in two cases: a prescription from a doctor at the University of Kentucky or the University of Louisville research hospitals, or a trial from the U. S. Food and Drug Administration.
The Senate gave the bill final approval Monday and it will become law unless Democratic Governor Steve Beshear vetoes it. The bill comes as states across the country are allowing the limited use of marijuana and its products for medical purposes.
In other news from Frankfort, Kentucky drivers will not pay more in states taxes at the gas pump this summer.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he's told legislative leaders to prepare the state's two year road spending plan without the extra $107 million that would come from a 1.5 cents-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax.
A bill that would restore voting rights for thousands of Kentucky felons isn’t likely to pass this year.
Lawmakers say they could not reach an agreement over different versions of the proposed legislation.
GOP Senate Floor Leader Damon Thayer previously amended the bill to include a five year waiting period and not cover felons with multiple offenses. He says passage is unlikely this year.
But bill sponsor Jesse Crenshaw says Thayer is refusing to help with a compromise.
“It’s hard for me to deal with Sen. Thayer’s logic because of the fact that he is the man that has to act on calling the bill, calling even the senate committee substitute to not recede and he’s the only one that can do that," Crenshaw, a Lexington Democrat, said.
Supporters of the proposed legislation have criticized Thayer’s changes, which would not affect about half of the felons the original bill was meant to help. The original measure would've affected an estimated 180,000 Kentuckians.
Provisions to block state money from being used on Kentucky's implementation of the Affordable Care Act will remain in the budget agreement reached over the weekend by state lawmakers. Sparring between House Democrats and Senate Republicans over the ACA dominated negotiations.
The ACA covers the costs of implementation through 2017, after which the tab will be split with the state.
Now, Senate President Robert Stivers says lawmakers will send the governor a budget that blocks general funds from going toward the state's health insurance exchange, Kynect, and the expansion of Medicaid.
"I think everybody saw that we have worked hard over the last three or four days," the Manchester Republican said. "There's been a lot of discussions. At points in time there may have been a little bit of political theater involved but we've reached an agreement, compromising and understanding the realities of each person's positions and each region's positions and each party's positions."
Currently, over 320,000 people have been insured through Kynect, with two-thirds obtaining Medicaid coverage.
Top Kentucky House and Senate lawmakers appear to have reached an agreement on the state's next two-year budget.
The Herald-Leader reports that negotiators from both chambers hammered out a budget deal after being cloistered in a committee room at the Capitol Annex in Frankfort Saturday night. They emerged from the room at around 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning.
Many of the sticking points worked out in the overnight meeting involved funding for higher education and money for K-12 education.
The blueprint would cut the operational budgets of state universities by 1.5 percent, which is less than the 2.5 percent cut proposed by Governor Steve Beshear. Most schools, like WKU, would be allowed to choose a top priority building project that would be paid for by general fund bonds and agency bonds.