Beshear proposal to increase school spending, cut other budgets - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Gov. Beshear budget to increase school spending at expense of other parts of gov't

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Gov. Steve Beshear, (D) Kentucky. Gov. Steve Beshear, (D) Kentucky.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB and AP) -- Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's proposed 2014-16 budget calls for increased spending for public schools, including money for teacher and staff raises -- and money to buy textbooks.

But Beshear proposes $98.6 million in budget cuts, ranging from 2.5 to 5 percent in most state agencies in the first year of the budget to pay for it.  And some other agencies will not see budget cuts at all.  Higher education and state police are among agencies that could cut budgets by 2.5 percent; economic development, tourism, the State Fair Board and certain public health functions would be exempt, Beshear said.  All budget cuts would remain flat in the second year.

The governor's $20.3 billion budget now goes to lawmakers for consideration. He presented it to a joint session of the house and senate Tuesday night in Frankfort.  

Public schools, grades K through 12, have not seen an increase in basic state funding in six years, Beshear said.  The state has not paid for textbooks in that time, and it has not budgeted for school district raises for three years.  The budget proposes 2 percent raises for teachers and staff members in the first year of the budget, followed by a 1 percent raise the second year.

Beshear said better educated students now will attract better paying jobs in the future.

Beshear is proposing an extra $189 million over current funding levels for public school classrooms.

Beshear said his proposal would lift per-pupil spending to its highest total ever in Kentucky.

He also proposed raises for state workers, ranging from 5 percent for the lowest-paid state workers, to 1 percent for those who make $50,001 and above.

Beshear also asked for a 1.5 cent increase in the state gas tax to reinforce funding for state road projects, including finishing the expansion of Interstate 65 to six lanes between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green.  Ohio River Bridges Project money is also budgeted.

What else is in the budget for Louisville?  The governor proposes going into debt to finance a new classroom building for the Belknap campus at University of Louisville and to pay for improvements to the Kentucky International Convention Center downtown.  U of L would also receive Bucks for Brains dollars to attract new faculty.

Beshear said his transportation construction plan proposes about $1 billion in new construction work in each of the next two years, amounting to "a lot of pavement" and a lot of jobs.

He said his proposal includes such major initiatives as converting all of the Mountain Parkway into a four-lane highway and moving ahead on the Brent Spence Bridge project in northern Kentucky.

It also calls for completion of bridges over Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake in far western Kentucky.

Beshear said the state should authorize $145.5 million in agency bonds to pay for a host of expansion projects at Kentucky's community and technical colleges.

The system has grown to about 100,000 students. Beshear said the state's General Fund can't meet the system's infrastructure needs.

So he said KCTCS leaders recommended issuing agency bonds for up to 75 percent of project costs. The remaining 25 percent will come from local communities and other public or private sources.

Beshear will speak more on Wednesday about a $100 million proposal to bring high-speed, broadband Internet to every county in Kentucky.  

He said Tuesday night the project would be financed by $60 million in bonds supported by the state General Fund and $40 million of federal and private funds.

Beshear said Kentucky ranks 46th nationally in broadband availability, and 23 percent of the state's rural areas lack broadband access. The goal is to spread Internet access statewide in the next two to three years.

Beshear said the project's first phase will be in eastern Kentucky. It has more areas without Internet access than any other region of the state.

He said lack of high-speed broadband can exclude areas from landing businesses.

Beshear also renewed his longstanding calls for tax reform and allowing Kentuckians to vote on allowing casino gambling as two ways to raise new revenue.  Beshear said his budget proposal leaves a $100 million rainy day fund untouched.

The governor's budget summary is here: 

It now goes to the state house for consideration.

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