LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky’s top House Republican insisted Wednesday that state lawmakers have a “pretty strong” relationship with Gov. Matt Bevin even after the General Assembly voted to override the governor’s vetoes of tax and budget bills last week.
“The vetoes were not a matter of anybody trying to embarrass anybody, anybody trying to say that one policy was bad – versus one policy was good,” House Speaker David Osborne of Prospect said during a Greater Louisville Inc., luncheon at the Brown Hotel downtown.
Besides diverging with Bevin on legislation, the House of Representatives adopted resolutions last Saturday condemning remarks Bevin made Friday night in which he said children were vulnerable to sexual assault after schools closed to teachers to protest at the Capitol.
One of the resolutions called Bevin's comments "so beyond the pale that they are unworthy of repetition."
In remarks to the chamber of commerce group, Osborne defended the pension bill and tax and spending measures and credited the GOP-led legislature with making state government “leaner and more efficient” by slashing $1.2 billion in general government spending.
He spoke a day after a major shakeup that saw state Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt resign under pressure during a meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education, which now is comprised solely of members appointed by Bevin. The interim commissioner, Wayne Lewis, is an advocate of charter schools – one of Bevin’s priorities.
The legislature in 2017 approved the creation of charter schools and allowed them to receive the same per-pupil funding as traditional schools during the budget that expires June 30, 2018. However, lawmakers have not authorized more funding after that.
Osborne acknowledged that charter schools are a “very divisive issue,” including among House Republicans, and said that even proponents didn’t support moving forward with funding this year.
“I still think that they have an absolute place in Kentucky, and I think that you’ll continue to see a push for them,” he said.
Osborne declined to comment on the resignation of Pruitt when approached by reporters, saying it's "not appropriate for somebody that's not inside the process.".
But in his remarks to business leaders, he said “many” education-related developments – such as the state education board changes and an audit expected soon of Jefferson County Public Schools -- are “outside of the purview of the legislature.”
For instance, he said lawmakers aren’t going to get involved in employment decisions of the state’s education department.
“That said, I think that there are policy decisions that will be made going forward that we will have a hand in,” he said. “And I think that any subversion of policies that we have set forth you will see a very strong reaction from the legislature – but I don’t think that you will see a micromanaging of it.”
“I think that the most important thing that we can do now with both Jefferson County and public education as a whole in Kentucky is to continue to give them to tools and flexibility to make the changes that they need to change themselves.”
Osborne said the tax overhaul, which added taxes to some services while lowering corporate and individual rates, wasn’t ideal – but it was necessary for Kentucky businesses to “flourish.” In particular, he cited the bill’s gradual repeal of the “cumbersome” inventory tax.
And he foreshadowed more tax changes ahead, including lower income taxes and repeal of the inheritance tax. “We will do those things,” he said. “This is the beginning.”