Beshear pushes for major investments in schools and new jobs

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky’s Democratic governor laid out sweeping budget proposals Thursday night as “bold investments” to bolster the state’s competitiveness, calling for more spending on economic development, services and its state-supported universal pre-school education plan.

With strong state tax collections fueling massive revenue surpluses, Gov. Andy Beshear said Kentucky should seize the opportunity to add nearly $2 billion for preschool education spending. – kindergarten to 12th grade, increase the salary of state employees, prepare more industrial development sites to create more jobs, and provide a kindergarten for every 4-year-old child.

The governor said his proposed budget balances fiscal responsibility with affordable investments that would “forever change the trajectory” of Kentucky.

“This is a statement of values, a chance to seize an opportunity, a chance to meet this historic moment,” he said in his budget speech to lawmakers and a statewide television audience. “A chance not only to tread water, but also to lead. My budget is called “Our Future Is Now” because now is the time to make bold investments. Now is our chance to move this state forward – not to the right, not to the left but forward.

But the governor’s ambitious proposals could clash with Republican plans to capitalize on excess revenue by revamping the state’s tax code. GOP lawmakers have supermajorities in the House and Senate and will have the final say on tax and spending issues.

House Republicans tabled their own budget bill last week that calls for less state spending than Beshear has proposed. And House Speaker David Osborne said this week that Kentucky has a “unique opportunity” to modernize its tax system, though he didn’t provide any details. During an appearance on Kentucky Educational Television, Osborne said the House plans to ramp up budget work to allow time to tackle the complexities of tax law during the 60-day session.

The governor said Thursday that an overhaul of the tax code was unnecessary and could be disruptive.

“When people launch something like tax reform, what they always say is that it’s our business climate that we need to improve.” Beshear told reporters ahead of his budget speech. “We have just had the best year of economic development in our history.

Last year, the Bluegrass State posted all-time highs for business investment and jobs created. Strong corporate income tax revenue in Kentucky shows businesses are thriving under the current tax code, Beshear said.

“A lot of the time when you win and win and win, you don’t change your offense,” Beshear said.

Osborne called it a clear “philosophical difference” on Thursday. He said the governor is committed to a “brand of tax and spending policy,” while House Republicans want to update tax laws to propel more growth by allowing Kentuckians to “keep more of their money.” hard earned”.

Republican Senate President Robert Stivers also raised the prospect of tax cuts.

“With all this tax money we’re holding here, why don’t we think about giving everyone a pay raise by giving them a tax cut?” Stivers said on KET after the governor’s speech.

A governor’s budget speech traditionally begins budget work in a legislative session. This time, Beshear’s speech came after House Republicans broke with tradition to introduce their own state budget legislation without waiting for recommendations from the governor.

Caught off guard by the maneuver, Beshear responded by rolling out its spending plan throughout the week. Osborne said lawmakers will “fully consider” the governor’s proposals.

A cornerstone of Beshear’s plan is to guarantee preschool learning for every 4-year-old in Kentucky, with the state fully funding the initiative. The cost – $172 million each year of the next biennium – would amount to a fraction of the state’s revenue surplus, he said.

Beshear’s plan calls for a larger increase than the House bill for base per-pupil funding under SEEK, the state’s primary K-12 education funding formula. The governor said his two-year budget would increase the amount to $4,300 in the first year and $4,500 in the second year. Under the House GOP plan, the amount would increase to $4,100 in the first year and $4,200 in the second. The current amount is $4,000.

To promote economic development, the governor said, his budget plan calls for the use of $250 million to develop a site identification and development program. The goal is to allow state-owned company recruiters to tout more “ready-made” sites for industrial prospects. Kentucky hit the jackpot with one of these mega-sites last year, when Ford and a partner selected tiny Glendale, Kentucky, to build twin factories to produce batteries to power electric vehicles.

Along with his spending requests, Beshear said his proposed budget would add $250 million to the state’s budget reserves.

The governor admitted he preferred the House Republican plan on at least one issue.

Beshear said Thursday that he supports the size of the salary increase proposed by the House GOP for state employees. The governor said his budget plan, developed before the GOP bill, called for a 5% increase. The Republican spending plan proposes a 6% increase.


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