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House begins biennium budget process

By Jordan Hensley, LRC

Frankfort, KY - Two budget-related bills cleared the House floor on Thursday. House Bill 1, on the executive branch budget, and House Bill 241, on the transportation budget, will now go before the Senate for consideration. The bills appropriate more than $110 billion.

This is the first time since 2018 that the Kentucky General Assembly is working to pass a biennium budget. Economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic led the legislature to pass two single-year budgets in 2020 and 2021.

Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, said he and the other sponsors of HB 1 and HB 241 believe the measures appropriately address Kentucky's needs and make good use of taxpayer money.

"There is not one penny of taxpayer money that has come into the purview of the General Assembly that the General Assembly has any ownership of," Petrie said. "We are being lent that money in trust by the taxpayers of Kentucky to render needed services that benefit them."

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved both bills earlier in the day on Thursday. In committee and on the House floor, Committee Chair Petrie, and Vice Chair Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, were joined by the chairs of the House budget review subcommittees in testifying on the proposed executive branch and transportation budgets.

Reed informed the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee that it has taken eight months of working with various agencies, stakeholders and citizens to draft the two proposals.

"This process makes the budget more transparent to the General Assembly and to the citizens of Kentucky," Reed said.

The proposed executive branch budget is expansive. The proposed appropriations include investments in education, public safety, tourism, infrastructure and more.

Sponsors of the bill were excited to share that HB 1:
  • Fully funds full-day Kindergarten for every public school district
  • Increases SEEK funding for every student
  • Meets the actuarial requirements regarding the Kentucky Retirement System, the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System and the Kentucky State Police Retirement System
  • Gives a 6% pay raise to all state employees
  • Gives a $15,000 salary increase to all Kentucky State Police officers
  • Allocates $350 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward clean water projects
  • Funds raises for social workers and provides funding for additional social worker positions
  • Provides funding for facility repairs and improvements at public colleges and universities
  • Ensures funding for Medicaid growth
  • Appropriates $14.1 million to expand the senior meals program, and more
HB 1 cleared the House floor by an 85-8 vote.

In the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee, Petrie said the executive branch and transportation budgets work together in a way the Commonwealth has not seen before.

On the transportation budget, Petrie said: "There have been extra measures taken to utilize general funds in selective, surgical ways--hopefully smart ways-- to maximize every bit of the road fund money that comes in through that source."

On the House floor, Rep. Sal Santoro, R-Union, said the transportation budget provides $100 million for local governments for repaving roads and fixing potholes, $200 million to match federal infrastructure grants and more. Santoro is the chair of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation.

HB 241 cleared the House floor by a 90-4 vote.

During debate in committee and on the House floor, several lawmakers commented on how they would like to see the executive branch budget include raises for teachers. Petrie said since each school district has its own needs, he believes raises should be decided on the local level and that the the budget frees up money for local districts to use toward raises if they choose.

House Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg, said she is afraid there could be "winners and losers" if the General Assembly does not appropriate raises for teachers.

"I have wonderful superintendents in my district who will do their very best to give their teachers raises, but I'm worried that the way that money gets stretched that their teachers are not going to see that," Hatton added. "And I'm really disappointed to see that in this measure."

Thursday's House votes on the executive and transportation budgets are merely procedural so lawmakers can work on the bills in conference committee. Petrie said it is likely that these bills will undergo changes before the General Assembly considers them again later on in the legislative session.

This story was posted on 2022-01-21 07:39:39
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