Governor Steve Beshear outlined his latest biennial budget Tuesday night and as expected, there are some major cuts. But they are not across the board. That is something new for Beshear since he’s been in budget-cutting mode for virtually his entire administration. Ten times in the past four-plus years Beshear had to balance a budget with across the board cuts and attrition. But not this time. The governor revealed a figure of eight-point-four percent which will be cut this time around. At first blush that seems almost draconian next to cuts of three percent for the rest of his time in office.
However, this time around there are some major exemptions. Medicaid; SEEK-the main funding formula for K-12 schools; preschool; veterans’ affairs; child and adult protection; mental health; prisons, probation and parole; public defenders; student financial aid; mine permitting and reclamation; and the Kentucky Horse Park. None of these will see cuts. Beshear also says no layoffs are mandated but grudgingly admits they may happen when state agencies make their cuts. The state will also dip into the Rainy Day Fund for an additional 102 million to help balance the budget.
Beshear did mention casino gambling in his budget speech, but soft-pedaled it, saying it’s time for the public to vote on the issue. rather than pushing a legalization measure in the General Assembly. He also noted gaming is not an answer but a tool to help state revenues. Also a softer approach that in the past.
Now the real work begins as a house/senate conference committee will do the dirty work of whittling the proposal and making changes to the final document. It’s usually a long, drawn out process, and this year may take even longer given the numbers.