Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Schroder: Governor Bevin's Budget A Success

The view from State Sen Wil Schroder's seat during Gov. Matt Bevin's budget address. 

By Wil Schroder 

On Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of attending Governor Matt Bevin’s first-ever State of the Commonwealth Budget Address.  I also was selected by Senate leadership to be on the committee to escort the governor into the House Chamber for his address, which was a unique and exciting experience.

Considering the dire financial straits facing Kentucky’s teacher and employee pension systems, along with the increasing and costly burden of expanded Medicaid, the speech was highly anticipated by many.  Overall, I was very pleased with the speech and want to highlight some of the key points.

Pensions:  

The budget proposal established plans for an unprecedented commitment to our state employee and teacher pension systems. The suggested funding would exceed the annual required contribution (ARC) to the Kentucky Employees’ Retirement System (KERS) and designate over $500 million in additional money to the unfunded liability in the Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System (KTRS).  While this alone will not solve our budget problems, it certainly helps us in getting back on the right track.

Outcomes Based Funding and Education: 

One of the highlights of the speech was Governor Bevin’s proposal to implement an outcomes-based funding model for our state universities and to phase-in those plans in the coming budget cycle.  This will greatly help Northern Kentucky University and should be encouraging to all those advocating to address the current funding disparities that exist.

Also in education, the proposed budget increases SEEK funding by $39 million over the biennium and ensures that 100 percent of Kentucky Lottery proceeds will actually fund scholarships and education.  Unfortunately, in the past, lottery proceeds have sometimes been used for other state needs.

Substance Abuse and “Protecting Those Who Protect Us”:

Another measure proposed in Governor Bevin’s address sought to reduce substance abuse by fully funding the comprehensive anti-heroin legislation that we passed in 2015. All across the Commonwealth, we continue to be impacted by the heroin and drug epidemic and we need to continue to invest not only in treatment options, but in ways to ensure that law enforcement and prosecutors have the resources they need to address the problem.   Another takeaway from the address was to “protect those who protect us” by proposing a $12.4 million increase in salaries for our state police and increasing the number of probation and parole officers and social workers.

In restructuring our spending and prioritizing our state’s needs, Governor Bevin did propose a total spending reduction of about 2.5 percent over the next two years. While the governor noted that some of the more vital areas of the budget will receive an increase, several others will see appropriations cut by as much as 9 percent. As your State Senator, I plan to examine these cuts and proposals very carefully and with thoughtful consideration to the impact they will have.  I look forward to working with his administration, along with my colleagues in the Senate and House, to passing a budget that will make Kentucky a better place for generations to come.

To view more details of Governor Bevin’s 2016-2018 Executive Budget Recommendation, please visit: http://osbd.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

If you have any questions or comments about the issues or any other public policy issue, please call me toll-free at 1-800-372-7181 or e-mail me at Wil.Schroder@LRC.ky.gov.  You can also review the legislature’s work online at www.lrc.ky.gov.

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