Detailing what Kentucky’s proposed budget funds
By DANIEL ELLIOTT
House Bill 352 is the $23 billion, two-year, state executive budget, which was recently adopted by the House of Representatives. The House also adopted a budget for the legislative branch. The budget bill will now move to the state Senate, and will ultimately be sent to the governor by April 1.
The House budget includes a record level of funding for education, including an increase in the per-student allocation sent to schools (SEEK), monies to implement the school safety act, and an increased investment in postsecondary education.
The bill also includes a debt service ratio of 5.3 percent and a Budget Reserve Trust Fund ending balance of $392.4 million. This fund is basically a savings account we often refer to as the “rainy day fund.”
Also included in this budget are pay raises of 1% for each year of the biennium for all state employees and all certified and classified public school employees; extra funding for prosecutors; and additional funding for personnel serving our state’s constitutional offices, including the Auditor of Public Accounts and the Office of the Attorney General.
Education funding: The House budget proposal includes a record level of per-student education funding, with $4,061 in the first year and $4,112 in the second year of the budget. All certified and classified school district staff will receive a 1% salary increase, paid through SEEK funds. Education funding also includes $1.13 billion over the biennium to fully fund the Teacher’s Retirement System’s actuarial required contribution (ARC). An additional $61.7 million is committed in the first year to cover health insurance premiums for those who retired after 2010.
Postsecondary education: The House proposal includes $26 million in additional funding for our postsecondary institutions, $16 million of which will be invested through the performance-based funding mechanism. Performance-based funding has proven to be an effective method of ensuring that higher education institutions continue to focus on educating students for successful career paths.
School safety funding: This budget includes the first step in funding the school safety programs called for by the School Safety Act we passed last session. The measure adds $18.7 million over the biennium to fund facility changes needed to implement the requirements of SB 1, as well as an additional $2.9 million transfer from Restricted Funds in the first year of the budget. The House also included $48.75 million to help school districts hire new guidance counselors to meet the goals of the School Safety Act.
Social workers: Kentucky’s most vulnerable will benefit from more than $33 million appropriated by the budget to hire and retain 50 additional state social workers.
General government: All state employees will receive a one percent annual increase in wages in both fiscal years, including constitutional officers. The House budget also provides restricted funds support of $4.8 million for vacant nursing positions in the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. The proposal also increases support for the Local Government Economic Development fund from zero percent to 70 percent of coal receipts, which equals approximately $23 million.
Public pension: The House budget proposal fully funds the state’s pension contributions in both fiscal years. For the second budget in a row, legislators are not contributing to the legislative retirement plan. The state’s public pension crisis has left us with a more than $44 billion liability and, frankly, that will take a long time to pay.
Debt service and Budget Reserve Trust Fund: The budget proposal approved by the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee includes a debt service ratio of 5.3 percent. Also, the ending balance of the Budget Reserve Trust Fund will be $392.4 million, more than $76 million more than the original proposal issued by the governor in January.
Daniel Elliott is the state representative for Boyle and Casey counties.