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Kentucky state operating budget expected to find the governor's desk by week's end

House and Senate budget conferees prepare to meet for a release of the budget document
Stu Johnson
House and Senate budget conferees prepare to meet for a release of the budget document

The agreed-to two-year operating state budget is expected to head to the governor’s desk soon. Details of the conference committee report came during the last conference committee meeting on Tuesday. Governor Beshear, in his budget, suggested direct salary increases for teachers. Senate Budget Committee Chair Chris McDaniel said the SEEK funding formula for schools is unique with a constitutional basis through a statutory requirement.

“Trying to meet the statutory requirement that is the SEEK formula is very difficult when you’re trying to do things for specific people, particularly the front-line workers in the schools. That was probably the single longest conversation in negotiation that we had is how we try to address that,” said McDaniel.

Under this budget, local school districts could pay for salary increases out of higher SEEK funding.

McDaniel said handling higher education funding with the current performance model also created spending priority discussion. In early education, McDaniel said about $20 million a year was appropriated including funding for scholarships for childcare. The budget doesn’t include money for universal pre-k as suggested by the governor.

Lexington Democratic Senator Reggie Thomas said it’s the largest budget in state history by far. And while he calls a $5 billion rainy day fund commendable, Thomas says the amount available for teacher raises and no action on universal pre-k is concerning.

“We didn’t do that and so again we have to wait two years, we fall further behind in terms of adequately educating or students so we still have some ways to go,” said Thomas.

Thomas along with Louisville Democratic Senator Gerald Neal and Frankfort Representative Derrick Graham also expressed concern about an absence of state funding to build a nursing school building at Kentucky State University. Thomas said it was a priority ask of KSU, adding all other state universities got their number one priority request. Senate Budget Committee Chris McDaniel said there was some shifting of priorities from university presidents which made decisions difficult.

 

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Stu has been reporting for WEKU for more than 35 years. His primary beat is Lexington/Fayette government.
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