House Speaker Greg Stumbo indicated Tuesday that House Democrats will dip into big reserve funds that Gov. Matt Bevin wants to set aside to deal with the pension crisis to find money to restore some money Bevin has proposed to cut from university and other education programs.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo
"I think the consensus of our members is that it's not a time to abandon our commitment to education in Kentucky," Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, told reporters when asked about the major changes that the House majority Democrats are about to make to Bevin's proposed 2016-18 state budget.
Stumbo said House Democrats are not quite finished with the budget, and could not say whether the House plans to restore all, or how much of, the 9 percent cuts Bevin has proposed to universities and many important support programs for public schools other than base school funding which Bevin does not propose to cut.
"Our goal is to restore and make whole our educational community as best we can..." Stumbo said. "I don't think it's a time that we should make the draconian cuts that (University of Kentucky President) Dr. (Eli) Capilouto spoke of...The time is to invest. Our economy is growing."
Stumbo said the House will likely leave much of Bevin's budget intact.
"We didn't take any money from his retirement initiatives - the ones that were funded, that were earmarked, that were dedicated," he said.
But Bevin's proposed budget also calls for building up Kentucky's "Rainy Day" fund to guard against future revenue shortages to more than $500 million, and to transfer $500 million in surplus funds of the public employees health insurance fund to a new "Permanent Fund" the governor says will be used to help fund the pension problem in the future.
Stumbo said House Democrats are looking to those reserve funds "and some other places" to find money to reduce Bevin's proposed cuts.
Bevin's office released a statement later Tuesday that said in part, "The number one financial threat to Kentucky's future is our pension crisis." The statement also said, "We are still waiting for details from Speaker Stumbo, but Gov. Bevin has been clear that he will not sign a budget that robs from our pension fund or adds to our debt."
The House budget committee actually approved the Bevin budget bill - House Bill 303 - on Tuesday, but only to get it moving through the legislative process with the understanding that the bill will be sent back to the committee for it to make the changes worked out by the Democratic majority.
Stumbo said the full House will vote on it "probably some time the first of next week." Despite criticism of Bevin and other Republicans that the House is taking too long to amend the budget and send it to the Senate, Stumbo said this is "about on time."
However, a check of the legislative record shows that if the House votes on the budget bill March 14, the date would be a little later than the most recent comparable years. March 14 will be the 47th day of this 60-day session.
Most recent comparable years are 2004 and 2008 - budget sessions after the election of a newly-elected governor when the law gives the governor five additional days to present a budget to lawmakers. In both 2004 and 2008, records reflect the House voted on the budget bills on the 44th legislative day.
And the House's consideration of the budget bill could be significantly complicated if Republicans win all four special elections being held Tuesday to fill vacant seats in the chamber. If that happens, Republicans and Democrats would each hold 50 seats and be required to cooperate in order to move a budget bill down to the Senate.
Wednesday, March 09, 2016
Not time to abandon education
This from the Courier-Journal: