Three newly elected constitutional officers briefed lawmakers on a House Budget subcommittee Tuesday about the impact another round of cuts would have on their agencies.
James Comer, R-Agriculture Commissioner, told lawmakers he’s “working very hard” to find efficiencies, but his agency’s staffing is “at historic lows.” He noted that the number of amusement ride inspectors has dwindled from 21 to nine over the last 15 years. "We only have one electrician now that's in amusement ride inspections,” Comer said, calling that a “concern.”
Comer says the number of things the department regulates is increasing while the size of the staff is dropping. The department has 41 regulators to check everything from price scanners in stores to gas pumps to animal shelters.
Governor Steve Beshear has proposed a budget which would cut most state agencies 8.4% next fiscal year on top of the 2% reduction sustained this year. In recent years many agencies have been trimmed by more than 20 percent.
Agriculture Department Deputy Director Steve Kelly told lawmakers the governor’s general fund budget would not cover the agency’s personnel costs "Either programs has to go or people has to go,” Kelly testified. “I mean there is no money left to do anything else with."
Kentucky’s new state auditor, Adam Edelen, told lawmakers his office accepts the challenge of monitoring the use of taxpayers’ money on a smaller budget
"We will not permit this agency to retreat on its special sacred commitment to the taxpayers to provide a government as good as they are, “said Edelen, a Democrat. The agency has 107 auditors who carry out about 600 audits a year.
Recently elected Secretary of State, Allison Grimes, a Democrat, told lawmakers on the budget panel that on-going cuts are placing “critical programs in jeopardy.”
"These cuts, on top of the deep cuts we have already seen, are going to have an impact,” Grimes testified.
She wants lawmakers to not strip any of her agency’s restricted funds, amounting to $2.5 million a year, from her office. Those funds come from fees collected for services. In the past as much as $800,000 a year has been taken, but Governor Steve Beshear’s proposed budget moves $1 million a year from the Secretary of State’s restricted fund, a move Grimes want lawmakers to reject.