Beshear says budget’s cap on natural disasters won’t work

Published 2:43 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

Gov. Andy Beshear warned that the state might not be able to respond as well to future natural disasters with the caps on spending that appear in the two-year budget lawmakers have submitted to him.

Beshear was speaking Thursday during his regular press conference which featured how the state was responding to Tuesday’s weather outbreak that includes 11 confirmed tornadoes.

“We’ve had the flexibility to spend the dollars that are needed after a natural disaster or emergency,” he said and mentioned 2021 and 2022 incidents in which the state had a massive response.

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“We were able to do that after the tornadoes in the west and the floods in the east, after the tornado in Trimble County and Carroll County, and the wind damage in Gallatin County,” he said. “We’re able to do that after this one as well, but the current pending state budget, for the very first time in history, would limit the amount the Executive Branch can spend or expend, in response to a natural disaster. This is not a limitation after any individual one, but over the course of a year.”

That annual limit is $25 million in the budget lawmakers sent to him last week, according to Beshear. “But that’s not all. There’s a separate limit of $4 million to fight wildfires. Surely, we are not going to stop fighting wildfires. This is a bad policy. If the legislature wants part of responding to a natural disaster, that’s challenging because there are so many of them, and you have to respond so quickly. Certainly, there are other ways to do it, other than to hamstring an administration.”

Lawmakers will return for the final two days of the 2024 regular session, April 12 and 15.

He concluded his comments on the topic by saying, “My hope is when they come back they will hear these pleas and they will listen to their county emergency management, because people are not going to be happy if this goes into effect, if the limit is hit, and then they have to wait for the General Assembly to come to Frankfort and pass a bill to get the help they need, days, weeks or months after they needed it.”