Coronavirus impacts budget as Kentucky lawmakers prepare to vote

Updated: Mar. 31, 2020 at 11:48 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WAVE) - Due to the economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak, Kentucky lawmakers are set to vote on a budget Wednesday that covers just one year of state spending instead of the traditional two.

Republican leaders of the Budget Conference Committee said they’re only laying out a spending plan for a single year because it will be hard to project how much revenue the state will be collecting a year from now.

“The budget presented will reflect our focus on the current crisis both in the dollars we allocate, as well as the unprecedented level of flexibility granted to the governor to respond to the crisis,” Senator Christian McDaniel, (R) Taylor Mill, said.

The budget focuses on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but would make cuts to programs compared to the budget Governor Andy Beshear submitted earlier this year.

Committee leaders said they’re building the budget based on pessimistic projections which lay out a $130 million revenue loss in the next fiscal year.

According to conference committee leaders, the budget would include full funding for the required contributions for public pension systems. It would also put an additional $300,000 toward the coronavirus hotline in the current budget and add $800,000 next year.

K-12 SEEK funding would also stay at its current level instead of going up.

Pay raise for state employees, including Gov. Beshear’s campaign promise of a $2,000 raise for teachers, would not be included in the budget.

“I was very optimistic and excited about doing a budget without severe cuts,” Representative Steven Rudy, (R) Paducah, said. “That was a very appealing time. I think we can all agree,the world has certainly changed in the last three months, especially in the last three weeks.”

Tuesday, Beshear said a one year budget isn’t ideal, but neither are the current circumstances regarding the coronavirus. He added Kentuckians are all sacrificing a lot right now. For him, he said that will include what he wants to see in a budget, as it is instead focused on fighting the virus.

The new budget would take effect July 1.

Lawmakers said they would craft the following year’s budget in early 2021.

After Wednesday, the general assembly is set to recess until mid-April when they would take up vetoes by the governor.

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