FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 9, 2012) – Greetings from Frankfort! We arrived last Monday with heavy hearts, several legislators describing parts of their home communities devastated by storms, some friends and towns gone forever. We shared our prayers and support, knowing Kentuckians are strong and resilient folk, committed to rebuild if at all possible.
Wednesday, the House passed the two-year budget for the Commonwealth by a vote of 78-17. Folks, I was one of the 17 “no” votes and will explain why later in this article.
Keep in mind the budget is a process. The Governor proposes a budget, and the House of Representatives then spends weeks reviewing his budget proposal. We have seven budget sub-committees consisting of approximately 75 House members reviewing the subsections and listening to hours of public testimony. Then the Appropriations and Revenue Committee reviews and rewrites the budget, which then comes before the House for a vote. Next, the process continues as it moves on to the Senate. The Senate makes their revisions and votes, and then it comes back to the House, at which time no one usually agrees, and we then have to go to Conference Committee to hammer out the final budget. It is an long process, and often not a pretty one.
I had several concerns with the House-proposed budget, and the revenue bill, House Bill 499, that accompanied the budget bill. My concerns were the debt ratio, the structural imbalances, and another rush to vote!
In recent years, we have stressed the need for transparency and providing time for the voting members and the public to review the budget. It is too important to Kentucky and her people to vote on a $19.5 billion dollar budget when we are only given a few hours to review the complex 297 pages of budget language before casting that vote. The people of Kentucky deserve good government!
On the matter of debt ratio, I recently joined many of my caucus members in sending a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee asking him to hold a hearing and vote on Senate Bill 1, which passed the Senate 34-2 last month. Senate Bill 1 is sound fiscal policy and essentially would limit the general fund debt service to not exceed 6 percent. Even with all the reductions, the debt ratio in the proposed House budget was 6.71 percent. As I have said time and time again, it is imperative that we bring the Kentucky in line to live within our means, as we cannot continue to spend more than we take in.
The budget that passed the House did implement across-the-board cuts of 8.4 percent in all three branches of government. Higher education, which is our state’s public universities, is receiving a budget cut of 6.4 percent.
The SEEK formula for local school funding does not incur the cuts above and maintains the current 2012 funding level for the 2013-2014 school year. But in essence, growing districts, such as Boone and Walton Verona, would experience some reduction when there is the same amount of money, but more students to serve.
We have taken several budget cuts the last few sessions, but like the citizens we serve, Kentucky government is learning to rework our priorities and live within our means. Again, please keep in mind that the budget is a process, and there are several more votes to be made before finally passage.
As always, I welcome your comments and concerns for the upcoming session.
Addia K Wuchner , State Representative District 66