Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Editorials

March 28, 2012

Why Kentucky is seen as poorly managed

March 28, 2012 —     Gov. Steve Beshear and the Kentucky General Assembly are close to finishing state government’s operating budget for the next two years starting July 1.

    It will total about $19.5 billion, close to what the governor requested in January in his budget address.

    And, as the governor promised in his speech, the new budget represents a “day of reckoning” for the citizens of Kentucky.

    The new, two-year spending plan will cut another $350 million from the existing budget by further reducing state agency budgets by 8.4 percent and public higher education by 6.4 percent.

    The senators and representatives from both parties will go home when the session ends in mid-April and tell the voters they did the best they could with what they had.

    News releases prepared by legislative staff will be distributed to the news media but there will be nothing of substance on how the new budget will improve the lives of Kentuckians.

    SEEK, the primary funding mechanism for elementary and secondary schools, supposedly will be protected but don’t believe it.

    The truth is that SEEK funding per student will continue to decline in the next biennium because the Kentucky Department of Education admittedly underestimated the number of students in our public schools and there is no new money to make up the difference.

    As a result, the 174 public school districts will be shortchanged again, in addition to the constant whittling of funding such as transportation.

    Like Carter County, many of those districts will be forced to eliminate jobs before next school year.

    The governor failed to recommend any revenue increase in this legislative session, despite $1 billion in cuts over the last four years.

    And the 138 lawmakers were happy to oblige him because this is an election year and no one wants to go home to face unhappy voters faced with paying higher taxes.

    It seems no one in Frankfort has the political courage to find new revenue, despite the state’s desperate needs.

    In fact, state tax rates have not increased since the Fletcher Administration tried its version of tax reform to help small businesses.

    So, it seems we are doomed to two more years of underfunded schools and colleges, inadequate services for children and senior citizens, the continued wholesale release of prison inmates to cut prison costs and other shortfalls too numerous to list.

    In our view, it’s no wonder that Kentucky is regarded nationally as a poorly managed state.

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