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Ky. Republicans finalize budget with full-day kindergarten, state employee raises

J. Tyler Franklin

Republican leaders of the Kentucky legislature have agreed to a state budget framework that includes raises for state employees, full funding for all-day kindergarten, funding to rehab state parks and money to pay down the state’s pension obligations.

But critics warn the plan doesn’t spend all the money available to the state, setting the stage for a major overhaul of Kentucky’s tax code.

During a legislative meeting Tuesday, GOP leaders unveiled a budget flush with cash from last year’s $1.1 billion budget surplus and federal dollars through the American Rescue Plan Act

Republican House Speaker David Osborne of Prospect said the proposal attempts to make long-term, fiscally responsible decisions.

“It is certainly the best budget I will have voted for since being in the legislature and I think it’s probably the most fiscally conservative and fiscally responsible budget that we’ve had the chance to vote on,” Osborne said.

State employees can expect to see much-needed raises under the plan, according to Republican Sen. Chris McDaniel of Ryland Heights. Experts have said they are needed to attract and maintain talent in government ranks.

The budget proposal includes an 8% raise for state workers in the first year and a 12% raise in the second year. Social workers, public defenders, non-political judicial branch employees and state troopers would also see a boost in pay. 

The plan includes full funding for all-day kindergarten and a slight increase in Kentucky’s education funding formula called SEEK – from $4,000 this year to $4,100 in 2023 and $4,200 in 2024. The budget would also fund 70% of school district transportation costs and fully cover vocational schools.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers, of Manchester, said the budget would make a number of investments to attract people to Kentucky, including  a $75 million tourism recovery fund, $20 million for basic maintenance at state parks in the first year and $150 million in the second year for an “overhaul.”

“One of our greatest and best assets is the natural beauty of our state and we made some serious investments to bring people back to this state,” Stivers said. 

Democrats said they hadn’t seen the plan until shortly before it was unveiled Tuesday morning. Republican leaders of the legislature will try to pass the budget before Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto begins on Thursday. They will return for the final two days of the legislative session on April 13 and 14 to consider overriding any vetoes.

Copyright 2022 89.3 WFPL News Louisville. To see more, visit 89.3 WFPL News Louisville.

Ryan Van Velzer has told stories of people surviving floods in Thailand, record-breaking heat in Arizona and Hurricane Irma in South Florida. He has worked for The Arizona Republic, The Associated Press and The South Florida Sun Sentinel in addition to working as a travel reporter in Central America and Southeast Asia. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Ryan is happy to finally live in a city that has four seasons.
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