House GOP budget focuses on one-time expenses, ignores Beshear on pre-K & teacher raises

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House Republicans unveiled a $124.8 billion budget proposal and an additional spending bill Tuesday that could have huge impact on Kentuckians, calling for more grant money for college students, , fixing outdated water systems, slashing state pension debt, hiring more social workers and boosting salaries of state police troopers. .

The budget does not directly address Gov. Andy Beshear’s proposals to implement Universal pre-K and across-the-board school employee raises.

House Bill 6, the proposed 251-page operating Executive Branch budget, was filed Tuesday by Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, who chairs the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee. It allocates $13.7 billion and close to $14.9 billion in General Fund dollars over the next two fiscal years.

The plan, called “Investing in the Future of Kentucky,” includes:

  • Increasing per-pupil funding to schools by 4% in the first year and another 2% in the second year, amounting to $117 million and $164 million respectively.

  • Boosting educational funding by $196 million over the two-year budget for the College Access Program, a needs-based grant initiative for Kentucky undergraduate students.

  • Funding 100 new social worker positions over the course of the next two years and allocates $13 million to increase the foster care per-diem rate.

  • Significant investments into the Kentucky State Police, including $24.1 million for pay raises for troopers and another $24.1 million to increase cadet class sizes.

“We know that a robust, fiscally conservative budget is imperative to ensure long-term economic stability and prosperity for the people of Kentucky,” Petrie said in a statement after filing the bill.

“HB 6 continues our commitment to investing in our commonwealth’s future while prioritizing responsible spending that aims to efficiently allocate resources while maintaining essential public services.”

Ahead of its filing, the budget bill backed by Republican leaders in the House was expected to differ substantially from the $136.6 billion proposal unveiled by Beshear in December.

For example, Beshear is pushing for the implementation of Universal Pre-K, which GOP leaders have generally dismissed. He also is calling for an 11% pay raise for all public school employees, including teachers, bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

A spokeswoman in Beshear’s office said Tuesday evening the governor is aware of the GOP-spearheaded House budget bill and is reviewing its proposals.

House Bill 6 does not include any funding for Universal Pre-K or any requirements for school staff raises. However, the state’s per-pupil funding formula — the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky formula, commonly called SEEK — would be increased to $4,455 by fiscal year 2026. That figure now stands at $4,200 per student.

Though the per-pupil number is up, the overall investment in SEEK dollars would remain static at an average of $3.2 billion per year, as the formula is affected by such factors as attendance and local property values.

“We do not have unlimited resources, and what revenue we have belongs to the people of our commonwealth. We have to prioritize spending and look at what Kentuckians get as a result of the money we allocate,” Petrie said in the statement.

In lieu of a mandated raise, House Bill 6 includes a section directing school boards “to consider the actions of other states and the local economy” when setting school employee salaries and “encourag(ing) local school districts to provide certified and classified staff a salary or compensation increase.”

“The failure of a local board of education to... make adequate progress in the recruitment and retention of classroom teachers and classified employees may lead to the closure of individual schools, the takeover of an individual board of education, or the potential consolidation of boards of education,” the bill reads.

House Bill 6 increases state funding of school transportation from $274 million per fiscal year to $319 million in the first upcoming fiscal year and about $359 million in the following. In Kentucky, fiscal years begin July 1 and run through June 30.

Going into this budget cycle, Kentucky Together – a coalition of labor, health and education organizations including the AARP, Kentucky Center for Economic Policy and the Kentucky Education Association – has called on lawmakers to loosen the purse-strings and pass a budget that “delivers for all Kentuckians.”

The group suggests funding Universal Pre-K, teacher raises, expanding access to child care, increased homeless shelter capacity, affordable housing and a “strong public health system.”

House Bill 1

Petrie also filed House Bill 1, a massive $1.74 billion appropriations bill focused on one-time investments in public safety, infrastructure and economic development, as well as paying down the state’s pension liabilities.

House Bill 1 is separate from House Bill 6.

Unlike House Bill 1, much of the spending in House Bill 6, the executive branch budget proposal, is recurring.

Nearly $1 billion proposed by House Bill 1 would pay down the state’s various pension liabilities.

The spending in House Bill 1 includes:

  • $500 million to the Kentucky Teacher’s Retirement System.

  • $300 million to the Kentucky Employees Retirement System Non Hazardous Pension Fund.

  • $450 million to provide matching funds for approved federal grants through the GRANT program created last session.

  • $150 million to the Kentucky State Police pension fund.

  • $150 million for drinking and wastewater infrastructure.

  • $75 million towards site development for economic development purposes under the Kentucky Product Development Initiative program.

The spending comes exclusively from the state’s Budget Reserve Trust Fund (also known as the “Rainy Day Fund”), which has grown to more than $3.7 billion.

House Bill 1 reflects a Republican focus on making “one-time” investments with excess dollars instead of committing the funds to recurring expenses, legislators said.

It would also help Republicans in their march to get the state’s personal income tax, which was recently reduced to 4%, all the way to zero.

The bill explicitly exempts all of House Bill 1’s $1.74 billion in spending from being considered as “appropriations” under one of the two “triggers” that allows the state’s personal income tax to drop another 0.5%, that General Fund revenues exceed appropriations plus the cost of a 1% reduction in the income tax.

This is a developing story that will be updated.