Beshear’s budget puts education in spotlight

FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) – Calling it an education first budget, Gov. Andy Beshear laid out his state spending plan for the next two years, which includes no spending cuts for the first time in more than a decade and fully funding the public pension plans.

He unveiled his budget before a joint session of the General Assembly on Tuesday night.

He anticipates just over $24.5 billion in total income from all sources for the biennium that runs from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2022.

Beshear says there are four new revenue sources to help pay for this. They include, anticipating legalization of sports wagering, which is estimated to bring in $37 million over two years; a 10 cents per pack hike in the cigarette tax, worth $39 million; a tax on vaping products $8.8 million and raising minimum taxes on LLCs from $175 to $225, generating $8.2 million.

During his remarks, Beshear said, “Our families deserve a budget that stops cutting and starts rebuilding and reinvesting. I know we can do that, let’s get it done.”

After the address, Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, called it a balanced responsible budget. “It finally puts the priorities where we need them: education, health care, kids, jobs. This is what we need to focus on in Kentucky, not just for the next two years, but for where we want to be, five, 10, 15 years from now.”

House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, concurred. “It’s great to see a Governor who leads, who talks about thinks that are important to Kentucky. We all know Kentuckians want better education outcomes, we want our citizens to be healthier, we want our children to be safer, we want safer roads, and he talked about all those things.”

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said he was upset with the process, specifically no budget briefing before the speech, when one was held for the media five hours before the speech.

“I’ve been here a long time and I don’t recall any time that the press has been briefed and we haven’t,” Stivers said. “In the day and age, one in which the Governor says he wants to change the tone in Frankfort, this is probably the least tone changing incident that I’ve seen so far.”

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, said it was hard to offer reaction to the proposed budget, since the Governor’s office had not spoken with them. “Not a single legislator in the body, Majority or Minority, was briefed on this budget prior to it hitting the floor,” he said. “I find that to be just a little disconcerting.”

Osborne added, the legislative budget staff is beginning work on the document immediately to give lawmakers a better feel for it. “We will move as quickly as we possibly can to try to produce a document that we can get to the Senate, hopefully before the end of February.”

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