Kentucky House Budget Restores Millions

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Kentucky House will push through a budget bill this week that includes millions of dollars more for road projects, student scholarships and a program to lure top researchers to state universities, according to the chief architect of the proposal, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

"We've made some improvements," said Rep. Harry Moberly, the House budget committee chairman, who provided some details of the House budget proposal during an interview yesterday. "It's still not what I would call a good budget. But it's a realistic budget that has the votes to pass."

Moberly said the proposal is expected to be approved in his committee Tuesday and on the House floor Wednesday, reports the C-J.

The bill will include a bond issue for at least $500 million to fund road projects across the state that otherwise would be delayed because of revenue shortfalls.

It will also restore a $14 million annual funding cut proposed within Gov. Steve Beshear's budget for the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships, known as KEES.

And it will provide an extra $55 million to the Bucks for Brains program that uses state funds to match donations for hiring top research faculty.

The House budget bill adds $762 million in revenue to the budget Beshear proposed in January for the 2008-10 biennium. That money comes from a revenue plan that House Democrats informally endorsed last week, reports the newspaper.

The plan includes raising Kentucky's cigarette tax by 25 cents, to 55 cents per pack. It also would apply the state sales tax to five services, and tap savings from restructuring state debt and from the anticipated retirement of at least 3,000 state workers at the end of this year.

On Friday, House Democratic leaders said they rejected Beshear's late call to shore-up funding in the two-year, $19 billion budget by raising the cigarette tax by 70 cents, the newspaper reports.

At the same time, Moberly announced that most of the new money generated from the House's revenue plan would restore funding cuts in Beshear's original budget proposal to universities and important social programs. It also would fund raises for teachers of 1 percent in 2008-09 and 3 percent in 2009-10.

Moberly said the road-bond issue of at least $500 million would be funded with most of the revenue from what will be an automatic 1.5 cents-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax July 1.

"The bond issue will allow us to do a lot of the road projects that the administration had to push off into the future because so much of our road money had been committed by the previous administration," Moberly said.

Because former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration awarded so many contracts last year, Beshear proposed no state-funded projects in 2009, said Rep. Don Pasley, D-Winchester, chairman of the House Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal

Copyright: The Louisville Courier-Journal

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