FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT/AP) - In an address before a joint session of the General Assembly, Gov. Matt Bevin proposed 6.25 percent spending cuts across the board and eliminating 70 programs across state government, while fully funding the state's pension obligation.
The proposal came during Gov. Bevin's State of the Commonwealth and Budget Address inside the House chamber on Tuesday evening.
"It is a realistic budget," Gov. Bevin said. "It is one that is not wishful thinking. It is one that we must pass, and it will set us on course to get our house in order so that the future will be bright."
Gov. Bevin spoke for about an hour in a speech that focused on getting Kentucky's financial house in order. He said his priorities include funding pensions, addressing the opioid crisis, education/workforce development, entitlement reform, investing in public safety, prison reform and tax reform.
After the speech, House Minority Floor Leader Rocky Adkins (D) said that Democrats will work with the governor when they can, on issues like foster care and adoption and fighting the opioid crisis, but he said he has concerns about the budget proposal.
"Kind of like we say back home, there's a lot of proof in the pudding," Adkins said. "And the pudding is what's going to be actually in the wording of this budget bill when we get it to see who exactly is being eliminated, who exactly is being cut, and to what degree."
Read the budget documents for yourself here.
Bevin vowed to spend an additional $34 million to fight the opioid epidemic, with a focus on helping pregnant women addicted to drugs. He pledged to spend $24 million to hire more social workers and give raises to the ones already employed. And he promised to spend an extra $10.8 million for supporting adoption and foster care children.
Bevin’s budget cuts appear lighter than many initially feared. Late last year, Bevin asked state agencies to prepare for spending cuts of as much as 17.4 percent. The state’s prosecutors revolted, telling lawmakers that cuts like that would force the criminal justice system to shut down. But Bevin’s spending plan calls for funding for 75 new prosecutors and 51 public defenders across the state.
“It is a realistic budget. It is one that is not wishful thinking. It is one we must pass, and it will set us on course to set our house in order,” Bevin said.
The legislature is off to a slow start in 2018, partly because of a sexual harassment scandal that prompted former GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover to resign his leadership position and three other Republican lawmakers to lose their titles as committee chairmen. Bevin did not mention the scandal directly, but noted lawmakers “find ourselves divided on issues of morality” and urged people across the state to consider running for the legislature.