New state budget approved in last day of legislative session
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - Lawmakers have passed top priority bills ahead of Wednesday night’s deadline. That comes as the two-week veto period begins on Thursday.
A top issue for lawmakers was passing a final budget. The spending plan, approved by the House and Senate, features pay raises for state employees and significant funding education. But there’s no money toward raises for teachers.
Several lawmakers on both sides of the aisle said this is “the best budget they have seen in years.” However, Democrats still voiced disappointment that mandated teacher raises were not included.
“It’s the best budget that I’ve ever had the privilege to vote on,” Rep. Patti Minter said.
Kentucky’s two-year spending plan is getting final support from most lawmakers, giving state employees an 8% raise this year, and up to 12% the second. It also makes significant funding to education.
“It puts us at 52%, or a little over 52% of our entire general fund budget being allocated to education,” Rep. Jason Petrie said.
Rep. Petrie said in the first year of the budget plan, more than $525 million are invested in education. Noticeably absent from the budget are teacher pay raises. Petrie explained that the funding would cover the costs.
“I am opposed to a mechanism that says Frankfort will mandate a raise to a group of employees that we neither hire nor fire,” Rep. Petrie said.
Some lawmakers say the budget plan still misses the mark in some places, hoping to see a bold investment. One hoping to see more focus down the road for eastern Kentucky.
“There’s a mega project fund in there that I think is $100 million. I sure would like for us to focus really hard on getting a mega project east of 75. I think it would do an awful lot of good for the entire state if we could use some of that money toward sending good paying jobs up towards eastern Kentucky where we need them most,” Rep. Angie Hatton said.
In his budget address and state of the commonwealth, Governor Beshear called for teacher raises. His office said they don’t expect him to comment more on the budget until the final version is on his desk, and he has reviewed it.
Legislation that allows schools to acknowledge mental health absences as excused absences is also heading to Governor Beshear’s desk, as well as House Bill 7, which sets tighter restrictions on public benefits.
Several other bills have passed in Frankfort. Senate Bill 167 passed the House, and will head back to the Senate for concurrence. It would give county judge-executives and fiscal courts more control over local libraries.
House Bill 248 got final passage in the Senate. It would ban statewide constitutional officers from using public funds on a lawsuit challenging a bill.
House Bill 250 is heading back to the House, after passing the Senate as well. It would issue reforms within Kentucky State University and provide emergency funding to bring the school out of a budget crisis.
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