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Kentucky Republicans praise Greenberg, lawmakers for historic Louisville budget investments

Greenberg talks about state budget investments at a podium in downtown Louisville.
Sylvia Goodman
/
KPR
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg talks about state budget investments in Kentucky's largest city in downtown on Monday April 29, 2024.

Louisville lawmakers and Republican leaders gathered outside the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts Monday to announce several new state investments.

Republicans credited both their own efforts and those of Democratic Mayor Craig Greenberg in securing what they say is a $1.186 billion in Louisville-specific funding.

The historic funding supports new projects and existing initiatives at the University of Louisville, contributes to community services like an addiction recovery center and helps revitalize Louisville’s downtown.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said that, although he represents an eastern Kentucky district, he recognizes that “you don’t turn away from 18 to 19% of your population.”

Stivers praised the consistent communication between the legislature and Greenberg.

“I heard more from Mayor Greenberg in one year than I did from his predecessor in 12,” Stivers said.

Greenberg too lauded the efforts of the General Assembly, saying he worked very closely with several Republican members throughout the session.

“The leadership of the General Assembly … are now agreeing that when you invest in Louisville, it's an investment in our entire state.” Greenberg said. “To every member of the Kentucky General Assembly, thank you all so much. It has been wonderful working with you all.”

Greenberg pointed to the $100 million earmarked for revitalizing downtown Louisville, including by funding a renovation of The Belvedere, a riverfront event space and the creation of the Community Care Campus. The campus plans to offer housing and medical care to the city's homeless population. Homelessness has been a big topic this session, with Republicans successfully pushing a bill that will make sleeping or camping in public illegal across the state.

The state’s budget also includes $70 million in funding for various Louisville community services — like the Shawnee Outdoor Learning Center, the Jefferson Memorial Forest and The Healing Place, an addiction recovery center.

Alongside the budget, Republicans also passed several bills into law that reshape the city, largely without bipartisan support. For example, House Bill 388 eliminates some partisan elections in Louisville, freezes the city’s zoning laws for a year and changes the review process for complaints against Louisville Metro Police Department officers.

Nonetheless, Democratic Floor Leader Sen. Gerald Neal from Louisville said he was grateful to see so much attention paid to both Louisville and some of its most frequently underfunded areas.

“It is extraordinary. I wake up every morning looking at these numbers, and I say how did this happen? I did my part. But my God, it wasn't just my heavy lifting,” Neal said. “These projects represent improvement, change and opportunity for the families I represent.”

Republican House Speaker David Osborne, from Prospect, said the investments lawmakers were able to bring to Louisville are only possible because he and other Republicans made “getting our financial house in order a priority.”

“That was under a lot of pressure, a lot of cries of misery. A lot of accusations are being made about our unwillingness to spend everything,” Osborne said. “There's a lot left to be done. And we're committed to do it.”

University of Louisville funding

One of the largest pots went to the University of Louisville at $413 million, much of which will go toward building a Health Science Simulation Center and Collaboration Hub in the downtown Louisville Medical and Education District. U of L President Kim Schatzel said the facility is “single largest project funded in Louisville this legislative session.”

“We are very well aware that this historic level of funding signifies great confidence in this university's impact,” Schatzel said. “As an anchor institution and a driver of economic prosperity for Louisville, our region and all of Kentucky.”

The proposed project would include research laboratories and classrooms, and the university says it would “ increase the number of degrees awarded” in health care fields. The building would house the university’s School of Medicine’s Division of Infectious Diseases and the School for Public Health and Information Sciences.

Stivers, a U of L alumnus himself, said the university draws students and those seeking medical care to the state. He also sponsored a bill this session to create an endowment fund for research collaborations between two or more state universities. He said he hopes the investment in advanced research could draw industry and talent to the state.

U of L will also receive funding for a proposed Center for Rural Cancer Education and Research, its Kentucky Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Rural Dental Outreach Program, and more. Greenberg said he believed such programs would help break down the state’s rural-urban divide.

“Those days are now behind us. Today is proof that those days are behind us,” Greenberg said. “Working together, we have made sure that everyone in this city, everyone in Frankfort and everyone around the entire state knows that we are working together.”

State government and politics reporting is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Sylvia is the Capitol reporter for Kentucky Public Radio, a collaboration including Louisville Public Media, WEKU-Lexington, WKU Public Radio and WKMS-Murray. Email her at sgoodman@lpm.org.
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