The House of Representatives tackled the daunting task of passing a budget for the Commonwealth of Kentucky this week and given the difficult economic times in which we still navigate, we are proud of our proposal.
While much of the House budget mirrors Gov. Beshear’s plan, we did make significant changes in areas including education, health and human services and economic development.
Over the next two years education would see
· $189 million in new money over the biennium for classroom funding (SEEK) which includes a 2 percent raise for local teachers/school employees in 2015 and 1 percent in 2016.
· $60 million for textbooks, school safety, teacher training
· $1.2 billion (compared to $366 million last year) in university bonds for more than 30 projects.
· $170 million for 17 KCTCS projects, the biggest overhaul since it was formed in the late 1990s. Other public/private funding would cover one-fourth of costs.
· $22.3 million in KEES scholarships
· $2 million a year for 500 Coal-county scholarships, doubling the current amount.
· 80 new slots for WKU’s Gatton Academy; 100 new slots for Governor’s Scholars and the Governor’s School for the Arts programs.
· $60 million for Bucks for Brains
Our proposal would support women, children, seniors and families with
· $500,00 each for domestic-violence shelters and rape crisis centers
· $1 million to continue colon-cancer screening for uninsured Kentuckians with a match from Kentucky Cancer Foundation.
· $1 million to increase breast and cervical cancer screenings.
· $16 billion over the biennium to cover 1.1 million Medicaid eligibles, including those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
· $6.6 million for the HANDS program to help new parents in high-risk communities.
· $111 million for the childcare-assistance program, which was scaled back following federal cutbacks, helping 10,000 Kentucky families.
The budget includes 1,243 combined new slots for several programs that help people with disabilities stay in their community and Meals on Wheels would add 3,500 more people.
The House budget proposal would also include a tiered system of raises for state and LRC employees. Those earning less than $27,000 would get a 5 percent raise; those earning more than $50,000 would get 1 percent. All employees would get a 1 percent raise in 2016.
We also gave $1.6 million to improve enhanced 9-1-1 services; added $6.1 million for the Commonwealth’s and County attorneys; boost Judicial Branch salaries of the lowest paid workers with $7.7 million each year; and $30 million for our PVA’s to restore their funding, plus another $2 million to cover additional costs.
Considering the tight fiscal restraints our state still must operate within, I believe we have crafted a good plan that will allow government to operate and fulfill its responsibilities while providing good basic services to the people of Kentucky.
Even with the primary focus on the budget the House continued to pass legislation which is now being considered by the Senate to include.
· HB 123 would publish breast cancer information about breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, surgery, and reconstructive options.
· HB 232 would require businesses, corporations and government entities to notify consumers immediately of any unauthorized breach and acquisition of their personal or financial information.
· HB 310 would prohibit anyone under age 18 from using a tanning bed at a facility without a prescription.
· HB 311 measure would allow parents to request that their children get vaccinated against HPV (human papillomavirus).
· HB 396 would expand a state incentives program for GE’s Appliance Park in Louisville.
· HB 483 would extend an agreement for AK Steel to qualify for state incentives to upgrade the plant and add environmental controls.
· HB358 would expand the Department of Corrections’ current Farm Operations Program to all correctional facilities throughout Kentucky
· HB359 would allow courts to order, as a condition of pre-trial release, an offender to wear a continuous alcohol monitoring device during some or all of the time before their trial begins.
· HB475 would allow a local option election for Kentucky State Parks to sell alcohol on their premises. The measure would only apply to parks in counties that are already wet or moist.
With the passage of the budget, we will continue the swift pace for the next few weeks. You can stay informed of legislative action by logging onto the legislative Research Commission website at www.lrc.ky.gov or by calling the LRC toll-free Bill Status Line at 866-840-2835. To find out when a committee meeting is scheduled, you can call the LRC toll-free Meeting Information Line at 800-633-9650.