Growing the Commonwealth for the Common Good.

Office of Senator David Givens

March 28, 2014

Legislative Update

This was a critical week as we continued to hash out the Executive, Judicial and Legislative two-year budgets, as well as the state road plan. The budget bills passed both chambers with some differences, and a Conference committee was established to work out the details with the House. There are many different opinions and philosophies on how to prioritize allocating the taxpayers' money and support the important public services for our Commonwealth.

As for us, we worked seven days, many late into the night, to make our changes to the House’s budget bill so it could review our changes and act upon it. Our priorities include creating a budget of austerity, fiscal responsibility and fulfillment of our obligation to provide the necessary services while respecting the taxpayers of Kentucky.

The main items we changed in the House’s budget bill were adjustments that reduced our borrowing and used money more efficiently and wisely. We lowered the debt service ratio (that is the percent of current revenue we direct to paying debt payments) from 7.05 percent in the House to 6.26 percent. Also, we increased the budget reserve trust fund, sometimes called the rainy day fund, to $125 million. We also reduced the structural imbalance (the amount by which current spending is more than recurring revenue) from the proposed $231 million to $153 million. Regarding the road plan, we took out the 1.5 cent gas tax increase that the House proposed.

Though we had differences of borrowing limits and indebtedness, there were several aspects of the House’s budget with which we concurred. We agree to fully fund the actuarially required contribution of both the Kentucky Employment Retirement System and the Kentucky State Police Retirement System, and we also agreed with the raises for state employees for 2015 and 2016.

Education is a key piece of our budget, and always high on the list of priorities. The House’s budget had appropriated $50 million in school technology bonds to fund devices for schools. This means that Kentucky would pay 10 years on equipment that had an average life of three to four years. We did not agree with this method, however, we know updated technology is essential for our students and classrooms. So, I lead the effort of finding a better way to fund this initiative while reducing our spending. We can provide the equipment, expand the bandwidth for classrooms and implement a statewide Information Technology Academy program with $6.6 million annually, the same amount as what the debt payments would be but without the borrowing. This plan uses a federal E-rate program that will rebate 80 percent of the bandwidth investment, which can be used for devices for classrooms.

Another big ticket item is healthcare. This year, as the Obamacare program was implemented, without legislative input, the state's obligations to provide healthcare to uninsured people changed. Under our budget plan, no state funds can be used for Obamacare because the federal government is committed to its funding. If those commitments change, we can opt out of both the exchange and the expanded Medicaid. We also redirected the funds of the Quality and Charity Care Trust for the University of Louisville. Obamacare is the ultimate social net, and if it is working as proponents claim, the additional money is not necessary and can be spent in another area of need.

Additionally, we came up with a plan during conference committee for school districts regarding the unusual amount of snow days. The official last day of school will be June 6; however, districts will have the option to be in session longer if they feel it is needed. Districts will submit a plan on making up the hours missed to the Department of Education by May 1. For districts that are unable to reach the 1,062 instructional hours, but have made every effort, the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education will waive any remaining hours.

If you have any issues or concerns, please call my office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100 or leave a message toll free at 1-800-372-7181. I appreciate your time and input.

Sincerely,

David Givens
State Senator
District 9


Note: Senator David Givens (R-Greensburg) represents the 9th District including Allen, Barren, Green, Metcalfe, Monroe and Simpson counties. He is the vice-chair of both the Appropriations and Revenue Committee and the Health and Welfare Committee. Senator Givens chairs the Medicaid Oversight and Advisory Committee as well as serving on the Education Committee and the Agriculture Committee.For a high-resolution .jpeg of Senator Givens, please log onto www.lrc.state.ky.us/pubinfo/ephoto.htm.

 

David Givens
Kentucky's
9th District
Senator


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