House GOP tables own budget bill before Governor Beshear unveils proposal

Gov. Andy Beshear is due to unveil his two-year budget proposal for state government next week, but House Republicans beat him to the fist on Friday, tabling their own plan ahead of time.

In a surprise move, Rep. Jason Petrie – the Republican chairman of the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee – introduced House Bill 1 to appropriate nearly $ 14 billion from the General Fund for state government during each of the next two fiscal years.

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In a press release Friday afternoon after Petrie’s bill was tabled, the House Republican leadership said the budget plan includes “record funding for education, continued commitment to the contingency trust fund state budget and salary increases for Kentucky state police, state employees, social workers and educators. ”

Beshear said for months and announced in his state of the Commonwealth address on Wednesday that he would grant raises to government employees whose salaries have remained almost stable over the past decade, already announcing specific proposals for ‘increases for social workers and state police.

Beshear spokeswoman Crystal Staley called the bill’s actions “concerning” in a statement, saying they “violate both long-standing practice and state law.”

“Neither the executive branch nor the governor was alerted or consulted,” Staley said. “What is even more concerning is that the House budget fails to make the game-changing investments Kentuckians will see in the governor’s recommended budget. For example, the governor’s budget will fund kindergarten. universal for all 4-year-olds. “

Petrie’s bill comes ahead of all Budget Committee hearings in the 2022 session, which began on Tuesday, but in the statement, he noted that the joint interim budget subcommittees had had months of life. hearings.

“Our budget review subcommittees have been meeting since late spring to identify not only our priorities but also the realities facing our state,” said Petrie. by both chambers of the legislature.

House Speaker David Osborne also praised the GOP’s budget plan in the statement, calling it “a responsible spending plan that not only meets today’s needs, but leaves us much better prepared.” for the future”.

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“We are in a strong financial position, but our economy is still in a precarious position. I know some people ask us to spend federal dollars as fast as we get them, but you can’t spend the same dollar twice – we have to get it right the first time.

Asked by the Courier Journal on Wednesday whether he planned to table a budget bill before Beshear’s speech – a departure from the typical custom of tabling the governor’s budget proposal and then changing it – Petrie denied that he would do so .

Representative Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, who heard the exchange, verified Petrie’s denial, adding that the GOP chairman was not wearing a mask “so we can see his lips moving.”

House Democratic leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham and Angie Hatton issued a joint statement on Friday, saying it is “beyond meanness that House Republicans have tabled an executive branch budget without the contribution of the executive branch “.

“Doing this before Governor Beshear presents his proposal next week violates long-standing traditions and the spirit of the budget law itself and is the most blatant example to date of their contempt for him and the public, ”Democrats said. “We may as well wrap up the 2022 legislative session now, as all the major decisions have apparently been made. This is not good government; in fact, it is hardly a government at all.”

Here are some of the budget highlights from the House GOP press release.

Education

  • Increases K-12 per student funding to $ 4,100 in the first fiscal year and to $ 4,200 in the second fiscal year.
  • Doubles state funding for full-time kindergarten in both fiscal years to cover full costs, while increasing funding for school transportation from 51% to a minimum of 70%, with some districts at 100% .

Health and family services

  • Increases social workers’ salaries and provides them with a retention payment, attributing an increase of $ 25.6 million in the first fiscal year and $ 61.7 million in the second.
  • Funds 100 additional social worker positions each year and “provides a method of monitoring the implementation of staff augmentation”.
  • Appropriate just over $ 1 billion for Medicaid expansion.

Law enforcement

  • Provides a $ 15,000 salary increase for Kentucky State Police Soldiers, an $ 8,000 salary increase for dispatchers, and funds for soldiers’ body cameras – closely aligned with what Beshear has proposed.
  • Provides $ 38 million from the General Fund to complete the implementation of e-filing in courts.

General government

  • Provides a 6% increase for public servants in the next fiscal year and requires the development of a “classification and compensation review plan for funding in year two”.
  • Allocates $ 350 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to clean water and sanitation projects, and an additional $ 312 million to bring the UI fund “back to previous levels the pandemic “.

Pensions

  • Pay the actuarial contribution required for the Kentucky Teachers’ Pension System, estimated at just over $ 1 billion for each fiscal year.
  • Fund the actuarial contribution required for state employees in the Kentucky pension system to the tune of $ 1.2 billion per year.
  • Commit $ 215 million to the Kentucky State Police Retirement Fund to reduce employer contribution rate from 141% to 100%.

Contact reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka. Support strong local journalism by signing up today at the top of this page.