FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Budget cuts to offset a looming $900 million state revenue shortfall are putting a pinch on government-sponsored Kentucky Derby festivities this year.
Organizers of the various Derby-related events held at the Kentucky Capitol each year are cutting back on some of the size and
pageantry this time. There won't be as many tents this year, and the chic private dinner hosted by the governor for honored guests and dignitaries will be scaled down to a Governor's Mansion cocktail party with appetizers.
"The governor definitely realized that we did need to scale things down this year due to budget concerns and that's what's taking place," Beshear spokeswoman Vicki Glass said.
Scaled down Derby parties come as the state faces gloomy times
elsewhere. Kentucky lawmakers earlier this month approved a two-year $19 billion state spending plan that included numerous cuts to government agencies and programs.
Economic forecasters have projected state revenues will drop by
$900 million over the next two fiscal years beginning July 1.
Public universities in Kentucky are facing large cuts in state funding, and schools are planning to raise tuition for the next school year. The University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University, for example, are both considering a 9 percent tuition hike next fall.
Other areas of state government are also facing funding cuts. And, Kentucky lawmakers authorized the state's prison system to
begin releasing people convicted of nonviolent, non-sexual felonies into home incarceration programs.
In past years, governors' Derby parties have been known for their swankiness.
Gov. Ernie Fletcher's final Derby party lineup cost taxpayers about a half-million dollars, including a train ride from Frankfort to Louisville, a "Derby Eve Gala" and a private state dinner.
Last year's event for economic development guests was usually
catered, Glass said. This year, it will be held at the governor's mansion, catered by existing staff and have a guest list of between 200 to 250 compared to more than 400 in the past, Glass said.
"It will be a smaller event," Glass said.
It was uncertain exactly how much less the Derby festivities were costing this year. But it was expected to be less, Glass said. Officials are expecting to also save money by having fewer tents, combined with less flooring, decorations and staff, Glass said.
"We just know that we will be spending less," Glass said. "We're being very economically conscientious."
Still, the annual Derby breakfast, held on the state Capitol grounds on the morning of the big race, will go on as normal, Glass said.
Mary Wathen, Beshear's director of special projects, said the state would save money on table centerpieces this year by having school children make them.
"It also gets the entire state to feel more a part of it," Wathen said.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)