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State budget passes its first test in Frankfort, advances to Kentucky House

The House considered three budget bills and the Republican majority easily approved them all. None of the House Democrats voted on the bill. (WKYT)
The House considered three budget bills and the Republican majority easily approved them all. None of the House Democrats voted on the bill. (WKYT)(WKYT)
Published: Mar. 5, 2020 at 11:01 PM EST
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Kentucky lawmakers are working on a two-year, $23-plus billion budget for the state.

The spending plan passed in the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee. It kept some of what Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky, proposed but also made a lot of changes.

The budget does include some new revenue.

"The only new revenue we proposed is the tobacco and vaping tax," said House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect.

There's no money included in the budget from sports wagering, which has yet to be heard in the House.

"It is still under consideration, but it is not contemplated in this budget. We did not contemplate any new revenue that has not passed the House," said Osborne.

The budget includes $18 million for school safety and $5 million for textbooks. But the $2,000 raise for all Kentucky teachers Gov. Beshear stumped for in his campaign was not included.

One-percent pay raises in each of the next two fiscal years for both state and school employees are included in the plan.

More dollars are going toward per-pupil funding than in the governor's proposal.

"It increases the SEEK per pupil to $4,061 in fiscal year 21 and $4,112 in fiscal year 22," said Rep. Steve Riley, R-Glasgow.

Public pensions would receive support, too, including teacher pensions for which the bill would provide $1.1 billion to the Teachers' Retirement System to help fully fund the system actuarially-required pension obligations over the biennium.

The House considered three budget bills, and the Republican majority quickly approved them all. None of the House Democrats voted on the bill. The House minority whip said they didn't have enough information.

"We got a briefing in leadership, but the rest of us basically just got it. It's very difficult to ask us to vote for something we have not yet read. It's irresponsible," said Minority Whip Angie Hatton, D-Whitesburg.

Some Democrats were also unhappy that funding for a significant broadband project in the state was cut from the proposal.

"I'm disappointed with Kentucky Wired funding. I'm worried that might put us in breach of contract," said Hatton.

"We are still having conversations about Kentucky Wired. But we are not going to give another $35 million to the project," said Rep. Steve Rudy, R-Paducah.

Governor Beshear said he's still reviewing the House's proposal, but said he believes education funding needs to be the top priority.

The full House is expected to vote on the budget Friday.

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