FRANKFORT, Ky (WBKO) -- A $23.4 billion state spending plan that would provide pay raises for state employees and teachers, more than $1 billion to fund teacher pensions, and millions of dollars for school safety, has advanced to the Kentucky Senate.
House Bill 352, sponsored by House Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Steven Rudy, R-Paducah, passed the House today on a vote of 86-10. Rudy called the Executive Branch spending plan “a step” in the budget process that would keep the state’s debt ratio at 5.3 percent – the same ratio proposed by Gov. Andy Beshear – while funding government needs statewide.
“It is our job to appropriate the money and be in control of this process. This is not the end of the process, but a step,” Rudy said of the bill.
Pay raises in the bill for state employees and teachers would amount to one-percent increases in each of the next two years, with funding also added for additional personnel in the Office of the Attorney General and other constitutional offices. Local prosecutors, social workers, PVA's, and more would also get a salary increase.
Public pensions would receive support, too, with more than $1.1 billion appropriated to the Teachers’ Retirement System to help fully fund the system actuarially-required pension obligations over the biennium. State Police pensions under the Kentucky Retirement Systems would also get some relief from their unfunded liability under the bill.
HB 352 would also beef up spending aimed at improving the health and safety of Kentuckians through a proposed influx of around $33 million to hire additional state social workers and retain the social workers now serving the Commonwealth. And it includes $18.7 million for school facility upgrades and $49 million to hire more school counselors as called for under 2019 SB 1, the School Safety and Resiliency Act signed into law last year.
Additionally HB 352 proposes an increase in guaranteed per pupil base funding, or SEEK, for public schools. And it would deliver well over $63 million in the next biennium for the state’s performance-based funding pool to serve clearly-defined needs of Kentucky’s postsecondary institutions, in addition to other spending provisions.
The bill would also cover over $158 million in funds for preschool for low-income and other eligible children, as well as over $97 million for Kentucky’s Family Resource and Youth Services Centers and other funding provisions for learning supports over the biennium.
Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said although there are a few areas of the bill with which she has concerns, HB 352 also does good things including funding school safety, support for social workers, increasing worker pay, and providing funding for child services. She also said that she appreciates that the bill doesn’t include drastic budget cuts seen in recent years.
“I’ve been here 11 years now, and all we have done practically, to date, is cut (funding),” said Flood. She said HB 352 does include some “wise dollars” that Kentucky needs.
HB 352 passed on a vote of 86-10 and advances to the Senate along with HB 351, which passed on a vote of 57-34. That measure includes technical changes involving the state tax code, and related provisions.