FRANKFORT — Following today’s announcement by legislative leaders that budget talks had reached an impasse, Kentucky’s House leadership announced that they are committed to reaching a deal by April 15 that would protect public education while financially strengthening the state’s retirement systems.
In remarks this morning, House Speaker Greg Stumbo said, “We think that public education should not be cut, because we have the resources and no one has shown us why we should add to the financial burden of college students and their families, effectively putting a tax on them. At a time when nearly every other state is investing more in education, the last thing we need to do is take such a major step back.
“The fact is, the House budget remains the only proposal that protected education, that funded the state’s two main public pension systems at the levels they said they need, that relied on less debt than the governor’s proposed budget and that set aside more in a ‘rainy day’ fund than the state has ever seen,” Speaker Stumbo added. “Even with all of that, we were still able to fund an innovative program that would make it possible for high school seniors to attend a KCTCS school without paying any tuition for two years, starting this fall. In short, our budget is the only one that meets our future needs while honoring our past commitments.”
House Appropriations and Revenue Chairman Rick Rand said that the House was more than willing to find a compromise. “If you look at the final budget talks, we were only about one percent away from completing a deal. The governor wanted steep cuts across much of state government to fund public retirement and we in the House agreed. The governor wanted a separate fund that he said would go to future retirement costs and we agreed. Yet when we asked to protect all of public education from cuts, we didn’t get anything back from him. Governor Bevin has not reached out to us at all to negotiate. Nevertheless, we are ready to work and get a budget before the legislative session ends, if at all possible. The people of Kentucky deserve it.”
The General Assembly is scheduled to re-convene tomorrow, April 1, for the legislative session’s 59th day. Under the current calendar, the 60th and final day is set for April 12th, after a veto recess.
“The legislature should never give up its ability to override any vetoes, but the unfortunate fact is that we have reached that stage regarding the budget,” Speaker Stumbo said. “Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that we can finalize a deal before ending the session. I’m confident the people of Kentucky will let the governor and the state Senate know that cutting education – after years of reductions – is something they will not tolerate. Harming our students’ futures will cost us far more as a state than we could ever save.”