The Kentucky Senate’s $20 billion budget proposal aims to defund the Affordable Care Act in the commonwealth, but its provisions won’t affect the program.
The Senate’s executive budget that was passed Monday disallows state general funds from being used to fund the ACA, the commonwealth’s Medicaid expansion and the state health insurance exchange, Kynect, all of which are federally funded until the year 2017.
But the state budget only affects fiscal years 2014-2016, making the measure largely a political one in advance of November’s elections.
When asked what his chamber would do if the 321,000 Kentuckians enrolled via Kynect lost their coverage due to the ACA being defunded, Sen. President Robert Stivers said he would support “supplemental programs,” like health savings accounts, to help insure them.
A slash to Governor Steve Beshear’s proposal for mine safety in the Kentucky House budget bill passed this month has many safety advocates concerned. They say there might not be enough money to conduct required inspections.
Gov. Beshear has proposed $7.6 million in each of the next two years for the state program that inspects and licenses coal mines. But when the budget bill was passed by the House, Beshear’s budget office noticed the number had been reduced to $5.3 million per year.
The Courier-Journal reports the 15 percent reduction was not discussed during the budget committee meeting or floor session when the bill was passed. In response, Gov. Beshear says his administration is “very concerned about the lack of sufficient funds to ensure safety” for miners, and the House and Senate will work together to ensure the funding is there “to cover critical needs in the agency.”
The Kentucky House of Representatives has approved a bill that would increase the state’s gas tax by two percent.
Filed by Rep. Rick Rand, the measure passed by nine votes. It will also tax instant horse racing, and retroactively fix issues with library taxing districts.
But the body delayed an anticipated vote on its version of Gov. Steve Beshear’s budget proposal, which funds state government for the next two years. House Majority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins says lawmakers need extra time to study the measure.
“I think this is a good budget for education, for economic development, for health and human services," Rep. Adkins said. "The other items that we’ve tried to build back in after $1.6 billion of cuts since 2008, so we think that, we’re very confident that we have the votes.”
The House is expected to vote on its budget Thursday.
A number of budget bills are moving through the Kentucky legislature, including a modified version of Gov. Steve Beshear’s $20.3 billion biennial budget.
The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee cleared bills that would fund the state’s legislative, executive, judicial branches for the next two years.
Louisville Rep. Jim Wayne was one of the few lawmakers who voted against Beshear's planned budget. He lamented a provision in the bill that would cut funds for indigent health care at the University of Louisville Hospital.
“This is a real concern in our community because the city had to cut back its share also, and just recently there was a case where someone who was burned on 50 percent of their body who was put on the street ended up in the Wayside mission because he had no insurance, even though they tried to register him," the Jefferson County Democrat said. "Somehow bureaucracy got delayed.”
The funds were reduced as a part of savings assumed by the governor through the Affordable Care Act.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo says the House is poised to pass the budget bill Wednesday.
The legislature has until April 15 to pass a new state budget.
The legislative scrutiny has begun for Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear's proposed budget.
Some lawmakers are critical of the proposal for relying on professional license fees to balance the budget.
From barbers to doctors, blue and white-collar professionals in Kentucky must pay licensure fees in order to practice their given trade. Those fees then go back into funding and staffing the licensing board.
But Beshear’s budget proposal transfers about $370 million in surplus fees to the General Fund, creating a structural imbalance.
Rep. Jim Wayne calls that robbery.
“It puts the boards and commissions in a position where they have to raise the rates on people who are being regulated by their boards and commissions," the Louisville Democrat said. "So, if they don’t have the money to sustain them because it’s been robbed by the governor, they have to go back and then tax, in essence.”
Wayne says the practice has become so commonplace, it’s become a “new normal.”
The President of WKU says he’s not counting on a big tuition increase to help offset a proposed cut in state funding for universities.
Dr. Gary Ransdell says he believes the Council on Postsecondary Education will cap the next round of potential tuition increases at about three percent.
That’s the increase the CPE set last April for in-state undergraduate students beginning this fall. President Ransdell told WKU Public Radio that it’s probably not realistic to expect anything more than that.
“Even if the CPE would allow a higher number, we’re not likely to go there,” Dr. Ransdell said during a break in Friday’s Board of Regents meeting. “So we’re going to have a modest tuition increase. Every year there’s going to be a tuition increase. It will simply cover our fixed-cost increases. These other items are going to have to be funded in some other way—probably through redirection of funds within our budget.”
The proposed budget announced by Governor Beshear this week includes a 2.5 percent spending reduction for state universities, which amounts to a loss of $1.8 million for WKU in fiscal year 2015.
Kentucky minimum wage increase?
A proposed increase in Kentucky’s minimum wage would add an estimated $419,000 to WKU's current payroll obligations. Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo is sponsoring legislation that would boost the state’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, up from the current $7.25 an hour.
Democratic Representative Tommy Thompson told WKU Public Radio he's hoping the governor will announce a boost for the statewide education funding formula known as SEEK, or "Support Education Excellence in Kentucky".
"It's really being funded at the 2009 level," Rep. Thompson said. "And then the strands of education--things like professional development and afterschool services and I.T. Those things have been dramatically cut some 30 to 40 percent over the last four or five years."
Thompson thinks there is also a chance the governor will announce funding for some capital projects around the state.
"Technology buildings, science buildings, education buildings--those types of things that are about reinvesting in communities that not only provide construction jobs, but also provide opportunities for workforce training and skill development," the Philpot Democrat said.
Gov. Steve Beshear is set to deliver his budget proposal to a joint session of the Kentucky House and Senate. It marks the starting point for months of haggling over a larger pool of state revenues still not expected to meet funding demands.
Leading up to his Tuesday night speech, the governor warned lawmakers face a "tough budget situation," despite the projected upswing in revenue flowing into Kentucky's General Fund in the next two years.
Beshear says the extra revenue will be consumed by big-ticket spending obligations, including shoring up the government pension system.
The governor has said he's willing to propose cuts in parts of state government to free up money for education.
Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer predicts lawmakers will say "no" to most requests for additional funding.