FRANKFORT— After countless months of planning and negotiations, the state budget for the next biennium is finished.
House Bill 1, the executive branch budget, received final passage by the Kentucky General Assembly on Wednesday, hours before the beginning of the veto recess period.
Chair of the Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Christian McDaniel, R-Ryland Heights, said the biggest items in the budget reflect a conscious decision to address operational deficits in the state’s workforce.
Some of the highlights McDaniel and House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, mentioned include:
- 8% raises for state workers on July 1, 2022, and additional raises based on a pay study for the following fiscal year
- $250 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds for clean drinking water
- Hundreds of millions of dollars to fully fund state pensions
- Funds to provide social workers with a $2,400 pay increase in addition to the across-the-board raises
- Funds to increase the SEEK formula from the current $4,000 per student to $4,100 per student in the first fiscal year and to $4,200 in the second year
- $23 million to assist Kentucky State University with ongoing financial challenges along with a second appropriation of $15 million
- Funds to cover the full cost of all-day kindergarten at every public school district in the Commonwealth
- Funds to cover 70% of transportation costs for public schools
- $25 million in grants for county clerks for elections and deed recording online
- $150 million in fiscal year 2023-24 for a major overhaul of the state parks system
- Enough funds to cover 40 days of operations in the event of an emergency
On the House floor, Petrie said the budget makes “historic” investments in K-12 education, and higher education.
“It puts us at a little over 52% of our entire general fund budget being allocated in education,” Petrie said.
In the Senate, McDaniel said Kentucky must remain competitive with other states and invest in people’s ability to succeed.
“Budgets are about discipline and restraint; and they get to the fact that in government, we cannot be here to guarantee anyone’s success, but rather set the environment for people to succeed to the maximum of their God-given potential,” he said.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said the bill underscores differences in the chamber. He praised the plan as a “conservative budget” that reflects tough decisions and sets aside money for the budget reserve trust fund.
“Just because we have a surplus doesn’t mean when have to spend it all,” Thayer said. “We have to remember where this money comes from. It comes from the taxpayers. It comes from the hard working people of Kentucky who every week have money taken out of their paycheck.”
While many members of the House and Senate said they liked HB 1, a few expressed disappointment in some of the educational funding choices.
Rep. Rachel Roberts, D-Newport, said her district in Northern Kentucky is losing teachers to Cincinnati. She said she’s afraid the SEEK increases and other education appropriations may not be enough for school districts to give competitive raises.
In the Senate, Minority Floor Leader Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, praised many of the expenditures, but he criticized the budget for not funding universal pre-kindergarten. He said when adjusted for inflation, spending on education remains below levels prior to the 2008 recession, and called the budget a “missed opportunity” overall.
“This is our opportunity to make investments in the state that will reverberate 25 years from now,” he said. “This budget is the opportunity for people to look back 25 years from now and say, ‘that’s when they got this done. That’s when we got Kentucky moving in the right direction.’”
Back in the House, Speaker Pro Tempore David Meade, R-Stanford, said HB 1 is an “excellent budget.”
“I think this is the best one I have ever seen in my 10 years,” he said, calling special attention to “record” funding in education, pensions, and economic projects and more.
Although Rep. Patti Minter, D-Bowling Green, said she has concerns about the transportation funding for school districts, she was “happy to see creative use of ARPA funds.”
“It’s the best budget that I’ve ever had the privilege to vote on, and I hope that we will be able to work with this moving forward into the next biennium,” Minter said.
The House approved the executive branch budget by a 93-3 vote while the Senate approved the budget unanimously in a 35-0 vote.
Both chambers also approved House Bill 243, the legislative branch budget, and House Bill 244, the judicial branch budget on Wednesday.
All three bills will now be sent to the governor for his signature or veto.