Gov. Matt Bevin proposed cutting most state spending by 6.25 percent over the next two years and eliminating 70 programs across state government during his budget address Tuesday evening.
The new proposal comes after Bevin signed a two-year budget that cut most state spending by nine percent in 2016.
Bevin said the reductions would allow the state to set aside more money than it ever has for the ailing pension systems — about $3.3 billion, or 15 percent of state spending.
“It is a realistic budget, it is one that is not wishful thinking,” Bevin said. “It’s one that we must pass and it will set us on course to get our house in order so that the future will be bright.”
Kentucky’s pension systems are among the worst-funded in the nation and have an unfunded liability of about $40 million.
Bevin’s proposal is only a suggestion. Now, each chamber of the legislature will come up with its own versions of the budget before all parties negotiate a final compromise.
This is the first time in state history that Republicans will have control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office during a budget-writing session.
Education Protected, Other Programs Eliminated
Bevin didn’t provide a list of which 70 programs would be eliminated, but budget documents show funding eliminated for at least 43 programs across state government — a list of those programs can be found below.
The main source of K-12 public education funding — Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK — would be immune from the cuts, but Bevin said local school districts would be called on “to utilize some of their reserve funds for transportation and other needs.”
Bevin promised to devote “tens of millions of dollars” to supplement overworked social workers at Kentucky’s Department for Community Based Services and $34 million to address the state’s opioid epidemic.
Jim Carroll, president of Kentucky Government Retirees advocacy group said Bevin should consider raising new tax revenue instead of cutting programs.
“Gov. Bevin’s budget request proposes a false binary choice — either adequately fund pensions or meet the state’s other critical needs,” Carroll said.
“The logical step forward is a third choice — adopt comprehensive tax reform that yields desperately needed revenue. The General Assembly must begin now to replace our outdated and inadequate tax structure, for the benefit of all taxpayers, including KRS stakeholders.”
Programs that would lose funding range from the Kentucky Commission on Women to the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville to the Kentucky Folk Arts Center in Morehead.
Bevin said savings have to be taken “from somewhere.”
“They’re scattered throughout state government. We’ve been thoughtful about it, not indiscriminate,” Bevin said.
Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said he hadn’t seen which programs Bevin had proposed to be cut.
“We just kind of know the parameters.” Stivers said. “They’ve told us the parameters that we think, either we were not getting our bang for the buck for these programs, people didn’t know why they were instituted some 20 and 30 years ago or they do not have significance.”
Here is the list of 43 programs Bevin’s budget proposed zeroing out.
1. Commission on Women
2. Area Development Fund
3. Virtual Learning program
4. Teacher Quality and Diversity program
5. Commonwealth School Improvement Fund program
6. Appalachian Tutoring program
7. Georgia Chaffee Teenage Parent program
8. Lexington Hearing and Speech Center
9. Heuser Hearing and Speech
10. Instructional Materials/ Textbook program
11. Teach for America
12. Professional Development
13. Collaborative Center for Literacy Development
14. Leadership and Mentoring
15. Middle School Academic Achievement center
16. Teacher Academies program
17. Writing program
18. Teacher’s Professional Growth
19. Save the Children
20. Kentucky Environmental Education Council
21. Non-construction state aid to local libraries
22. Kentucky Teacher Internship Program
23. Sheriff’s Expense Allowance program
24. Access to Justice Program
25. Kentucky Legal Education Opportunity Fund
26. Jailers’ Allowance Program
27. Life Safety or Closed Jails Program
28. State Group Health Insurance Fund
29. Community Operations Board
30. Kentucky Folk Art Center
31. Kentucky Center for Mathematics
32. Hospital Direct Support
33. Agriculture Public Service
34. University Press
35. Center for Entrepreneurship
36. Livestock Disease Diagnostic Laboratory
37. Center for Applied Energy Research
38. Kentucky Mesonet
39. Adult Agriculture Program
40. Kentucky Coal Academy
41. Capitol Cafeteria
42. Kentucky Center for the Arts