|Paul Whalen, Campbell County Democratic Party Chair|
by Paul Whalen
This is written in response to Senator Wil Schroder’s opinion piece which appeared in Fort Thomas Matters on March 31, 2016 concerning the budget.
Mr. Schroder’s article indicates that the budget negotiations in the House-Senate Conference Committee broke down due to disagreement regarding so called “free community college”. That statement could not be farther from the truth. The Governor wants to cripple higher education in Kentucky with one small exception. Schroder failed to mention that Bevin’s budget provided $21 million for the renovation of the athletic dorm at UK.
It should be noted that the 4 percent-plus across-the-board cuts ordered by Governor Bevin for the current fiscal year which ends on June 30, 2016 are illegal as they were enacted into law by a previous session of the legislature. Moreover, there is no indication that these current cuts to education are needed.
The House version of the budget make both the required annual payments for the pension deficit for the biennium and does not cut higher education. Last week when budget negotiations broke down, House and Senate conference members were within a several million dollars of making a compromise on a $21 billion dollar budget when the Governor told the Republicans to walk away by ordering the budget director who was working with parties to leave the meeting. The Governor and the Republican controlled State Senate want to pay down the pension deficit faster by taking money from our children by cutting funding at Kentucky’s state universities and colleges. If Governor Bevin and the Republican State Senate want to pay down the pension debt faster, they should consider new sources of revenue.
In the closing weeks of the 2016 General Assembly, the Commonwealth has seen the failure of its chief executive Governor Bevin to consider the art of compromise. It's become very apparent today’s Republican Party has lost its bearings, lost sight of working for the betterment of all people in society and making provisions for our children’s future. This is evidenced by Governor Bevin and the Republican State Senate having taken a guillotine to higher education in Kentucky. Bevin’s Republican predecessor, Governor Louie Nunn, saw the need for additional revenue for education and transportation and delivered it. Bevin, like Nunn, must consider new revenue sources for education and pensions.
These new sources which have yet to be considered by Governor Bevin should include casino gambling, legalization of marijuana and tax reform. Another source of revenue could be uncollected sales taxes generated from sales over the internet. According to University of Tennessee study, Kentucky loses over a $100 million dollars a year in lost sales tax revenue.
In the 21st Century, state and local governments working in tandem along with the Federal government provide a multitude of services or “internal improvements” (as advocated by Henry Clay and Lincoln). These internal improvements include support for public P-12 and Post-Secondary Education. Communities with good or excellent public schools and colleges are considered good places to locate businesses and live.
Kentucky is a state which desperately needs to continue to work in making higher education accessible to all of its residents. According to the 2010 Census, only 20 percent of Kentucky’s residents 25 or older have bachelor’s degrees or roughly 610,000 people. During that same census slightly more than 187,000 Kentuckians have an associate degree. The progress in which Kentuckians have been earning bachelor’s degrees has progressed from 47th to 45th out OF 52. In respect to earning an associate degree, Kentuckians have moved from 38th out of 52 to 16 out of 52. In raw numbers Kentuckians with associate degrees number at about 190,000. With a population of about 4.4 million in 2016, there are less than 900,000 Kentuckians with an associate degree or better available for the labor force. These numbers are less when retirements from the “baby-boomer” generation are factored.
In order for Kentucky and its citizens to face the future, The Legislature and the Governor must invest in the future providing adequate financial support for education, from preschool to completion of a bachelors, all while paying down the pension debt.
Henry Clay, Abe Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt as well as Governor Louie Nunn are shaking their heads from heaven about those who claim to be their political successors. Henry Clay and Abe Lincoln, in addition to being advocates of building roads and universities throughout the nation, were men who knew how to compromise and build bridges, literally as well as figuratively. It should be noted, Republican Governor Louie Nunn with the help of a Democratic Legislature created Northern Kentucky University.