Governor Steve Beshear says ‘harsh’ budget cuts to some state agencies are needed to move the Commonwealth forward in the areas of education and economic development. The governor outlined his budget strategy last night during a joint session of the Kentucky General Assembly.
Governor Beshear is recommending almost a hundred million dollars in budget cuts over the course of the next two years. That will mean a five percent reduction for many state agencies during the first year. The governor’s office admits such cuts could mean delays in service, facility closures, and even employee layoffs. Under his plan, higher education officials would see a two and a half percent cut.
“There is simply no way to create enough money to make the needed investments in Pre-K through 12th grade unless higher education is included in the reductions," said Beshear.
While the budget cuts suggested are significant, the governor’s proposed two year budget would increase per-pupil funding for kindergarten through high school to its highest level ever. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday says the budget focuses on the competitive workforce of the future. Holliday, who continues to wrestle with a vocal condition, regrets his educators gains come at the cost of other state agencies.
“I think it’s critical that the general assembly take up tax reform and take up expanded gaming to put more money back into state agencies that provide much needed services and also possibly fund more funds for higher education,” said Holliday.
Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson says his school’s internal reallocation of money last spring included setting some funds aside. So, although a two percent cut means almost two million dollars at Eastern, Benson says it appears to be manageable. “I look at my friends and colleagues at other campuses that have pension liabilities and other encumbrances and it could be a lot worse for us and so, we’ll be OK. That said, a cut’s a cut, but it could have been a lot worse,” added Benson.
Governor Beshear’s budget does recommend a number of capital improvements. They include phase two of the science building project at E-K-U and a first time parking deck on the Richmond campus. Beshear is also asking for 145 million dollars in agency bonds to fund 16 capital projects within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System.