Governor proposes 'deep, painful cuts' to balance budget

Gov. Steve Beshear delivering his 2012 budget address on January 17, 2012
Gov. Steve Beshear delivering his 2012 budget address on January 17, 2012
Mike Hancock, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary
Mike Hancock, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary
State Sen. Damon Thayer
State Sen. Damon Thayer

FRANKFORT, KY (WAVE) - Kentucky's Governor is proposing more budget cuts and possible layoffs to solve the more than $700 million budget shortfall. Gov. Steve Beshear said at his budget address that the money available is "inadequate for the needs of the people." Still most state agencies could see 8.4 percent cuts.  

"The day of reckoning has come because with this budget," said Beshear.  "We begin to carve into some of our most critical services."

Beshear has insisted on protecting the SEEK formula, which is basic K-12 funding, in every budget.  While he isn't cutting it, he also isn't adding money.

"Measured in per-pupil funding, this is a slip backward to 2008 levels," said Beshear.

This means there will be about $76 less available per student. University of Louisville President James Ramsey listened as Beshear proposed cutting funding for colleges and universities again, this time by 6.4 percent.

Still some of largest cuts go to tourism, especially parks.

"We will do everything we can to keep them operating at some level over the next two years, but it will be a difficult task," said Beshear.

Kentucky State Police would face a 2.2 percent cut under his proposal, along with prosecutors and the juvenile justice system. Justice will, however, get some money back.

"Hiring additional pre-trial and parole officers to increase supervision of our inmates as they re-enter society," said Beshear. "It reinvests the savings from a reduced prison population in areas like expanded substance-abuse treatment programs."

There are a few increases under the Governor's proposal.  He wants to expand early childhood education.

"This $15 million investment will put 4,430 more Kentucky children in preschool," said Beshear in his speech.  

The proposal also spends $21 million to hire more social workers and staff as well as fund capital projects like a veterans' nursing home in Radcliff, work on Rupp Arena as part of downtown Lexington's redevelopment project, and the Ohio River bridges. The bridges already have more than $200 million allocated and this would add $50 million per year of the biennial budget.

Mike Hancock, Transportation Cabinet Secretary, said it is enough to keep the project on schedule and move forward.

Some members of the General Assembly want to proceed cautiously in regards to capital projects when there is a $742 million budget gap.

"I'm concerned about the capital projects that he's recommending in the general fund," said Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown. "I don't know if we can afford to take on much more new debt."

The governor put forth his proposal, but the actual budget bill begins in the House and moves to the Senate.

Leaders from both chambers called a press conference after the speech, but neither House Speaker Greg Stumbo, nor Senate President David Williams showed up. Staff members say Stumbo went to his office and Williams headed to Lexington to the University of Kentucky basketball game.

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