Governor Beshear delivers budget address: education, healthcare, economic development top priorities

Thursday night, the Governor presented his proposals for the next two years to lawmakers in Frankfort.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Governor Beshear’s budget proposal, called “Our Future Is Now,” focuses funding for healthcare, infrastructure, economic development, and education for the next two years.

Thursday night, Governor Beshear unveiled his full budget proposal, taking into account Kentucky’s historic surplus funding.

“The Governor has made his recommendations. Now it lies with the House first and then the Senate,” said state Senate President Robert Stivers.

The governor’s budget proposal includes a record amount of funding for education, proposing Kentucky add nearly $2 billion in funding for universal preschool for all 4-year-olds, as well as full day kindergarten.

“No longer will tens of thousands of our children be left out of preschool or Head Start. No longer will thousands of children fail to be kindergarten-ready. No longer will children not be ready for their first day of school,” said Gov. Beshear.

The education funds include a 16% increase in SEEK funding, a 12.5% increase in base per pupil funding, and a minimum 5% pay increase for people working in schools. The budget also includes loan forgiveness for public school teachers, and fully funds teachers’ pensions and medical benefits. The proposal also includes an 81% increase in school transportation funding, which will fully fund school districts, as well as $6.2 million each year for mental health resources for students, teachers, and staff.

The budget also focuses on the state’s economic development and infrastructure, allotting $250 million in one-time funding for a Site Development program, continuing Beshear’s goal of making Kentucky an industrial leader.

“Last year, our growth, this growth, was more inclusive than ever before with opportunities spread out all over this state and so many communities,” said Gov. Beshear.

The Governor proposes $75 million to support agritech research in Eastern Kentucky, and provides funding for the Better Kentucky Cleaner Water Program for clean drinking water.

“Clean drinking water is a basic human right, and it should never be dependent on where you live,” said Gov. Beshear.

He also included $500 million to expand broadband, as well as $200 million in one-time funding for State Parks. Plans for completing the Mountain Parkway, expanding the road to 4 lanes, are also in the proposal.

The budget also focuses funding on health care, fully funding Medicaid and the Medicaid Expansion, as well as re-starting Kynect. To address the nursing shortage, the governor proposes a $12 million to increase the amount of nursing scholarships and $25 million in student loan forgiveness for nurses and nursing faculty. The proposal also gives a 34% increase in funding to domestic violence, rape crisis, and child advocacy centers.

“My budget gets nurses into the profession, keeps them in the profession, and shows them how much we care,” said Gov. Beshear.

Last week, House Republicans broke with tradition and unveiled their own budget plan ahead of Governor Beshear’s. House Republicans’ priority is to use Kentucky’s excess revenue by updating the tax code.

“I’m certain we’ll be talking to the Budget Director for clarifications on some things,” said state House Speaker David Osborne.

Beshear also says he supports a 6 percent raise for state workers on May 1, similar to the House Republicans’ proposal, though the raise is proposed at a later date. Support for an immediate $15,000 salary increase for Kentucky State Police officers and troopers are also in the proposal, as well as funding for body cameras for KSP troopers.

Republican lawmakers say they are confident they will be able to work with Democrats and the Governor to get a budget passed.

“In the time I’ve had in this chamber, we’ve always been able to get it out well before the veto/override period starts,” said state Senate President Robert Stivers.

Thursday, the governor also signed the first piece of legislation to help Western Kentucky communities impacted by tornadoes, allotting $30 million for impacted school systems and $15 million for medium-term housing.

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