Kentucky House and Senate leaders say new pension bill will be tweaked

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Senate passed its version of a state budget plan Tuesday.

The Senate plan fully funds the pension systems in the state.

The House version of the budget called for a 50-cent per pack increase in the cigarette tax, and a 25-cent per dose tax on opioid prescriptions. The money was to be used to restore cuts to education proposed by Gov. Matt Bevin.

But the Senate budget plan stripped out those tax increases.

“There simply is not the support to do one-off tax increases in this chamber,” said Senate budget chairman Chris McDaniel (R-Taylor Mill).

The Senate plan also restores many of the 6.25-percent budget cuts that Bevin wanted.

“A lot of the same programs saw the 6-and-a-quarter percent reduction, but we were able to add some things in there,” McDaniel said.

Indeed, the Senate budget bill will find savings elsewhere in order to fund most K-12 education programs, including student transportation. It sets base funding for education at $3,984 per pupil, which is more than Bevin wanted but slightly less than the House.

The Senate proposal also includes pay raises for Kentucky State Police crime lab employees and for social workers. It also includes funding for the Poison Control Center at Norton Hospital.

The Senate plan eliminates funding for private prisons, which Bevin has proposed to relieve overcrowding. McDaniel said there are still available beds in county jails. The jails would be required to prioritize state inmates over federal prisoners.

The Senate bill puts more police officers in public schools by making it less expensive to hire them. It will also let local law enforcement agencies rehire retired police as school resource officers without having to pay for their retirement and health insurance. It will also allow state troopers to take second jobs as school resource officers.

The bill will now move on to a conference committee of House and Senate leaders where they will try to hammer out a compromise.

Lawmakers must pass a final budget by April 28 to be able to override any possible vetoes by Bevin.

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