House committee approves budget

The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee approved a biennial budget Wednesday that would restore transportation funding to school systems that had been cut in Governor Matt Bevin’s proposed spending plan.

The proposed budget restores about $128 million in SEEK transportation funds, keeping school systems on par with current fiscal year levels for another two years. Governor Bevin’s proposed cuts would have forced school systems in Christian, Todd and surrounding counties to cut teachers and staff.

The spending plan also restores about $60 million to help retired teachers who have not yet reached Medicare eligibility to pay for health insurance.

Governor Bevin’s proposed 6.25 percent cuts to KCTCS, Murray State and other colleges and universities are restored to current fiscal year funding under the House proposal.

The budget includes $750,000 for continued operation of Western Kentucky University’s Mesonet sites, which provide climate data to farmers and other entities across the state.

Commonwealth’s and county attorneys in Kentucky would have money for additional staffing under the House budget, but only half of the amount proposed by Governor Bevin.

Just under $300,000 is included in the budget to continue operations another two years at the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Madisonville.

The House revenue bill to pay for proposed spending includes a 50-cent per pack tax increase on a pack of cigarettes.

State Representative Myron Dossett of Pembroke serves on the committee that sent the proposed budget to the full House Wednesday and says the most important thing is it fully funds the actuarially required contribution to the state employee and teacher retirement systems.

Dossett says it’s not perfect, but he believes the House has taken the Governor’s proposal and made it into something Kentucky can live with. He says it’s the earliest he’s ever seen a budget come out of committee during his 12 years in Frankfort, with a full House vote expected Thursday.

Click here for a budget summary from the Legislative Research Commission.