When Kentucky voters approved the odd year, 30-day legislative session in 1985, it was expected that budgetary matters would not be considered.
The constitutional amendment specified that revenue matters (taxes) and budgets could only be adopted in a short session by a super majority affirmative vote of 60 of 100 members in the House and 23 of 38 in the Senate.
That limitation was based on the notion that the 60-day session in even-numbered years provides more time for the task of developing a two-year budget and the revenue to support it.
The ensuing 35 years have seen budget issues emerge sporadically in odd-year sessions and it is likely that 2019 could include many money matters.
To make that point, State Budget Director John Chilton sent a letter last week to all the lawmakers to remind them that several budgetary issues will face them when they return to Frankfort on Feb. 5. He said the various issues must be resolved by the March 29 adjournment.
For example, the 2018 legislature gave a one-year rate discount to 118 quasi-governmental agencies which participate
in the Kentucky Employees Retirement System (KERS). Instead of an 83 percent contribution rate, they were allowed to pay only 49 percent.
As a result, KERS fell another $132 million behind and today has only 13 percent of what is needed to pay current and future retirees.
Chilton also warned that the state may experience another shortfall in its Medicaid budget in the new fiscal year starting July 1.
He pointed out that taxpayers are expecting to see corrections made to taxes levied in 2018 that resulted in unintended consequences.
Several relating to the expanded state sales tax have impacted non-profit organizations, for example. Most of those adjustments will not have a significant impact on the current or future biennial budgets, Chilton wrote.
The budget director noted that school safety, state parks, and prisons have funding needs not addressed in the current budget.
In our view, it should be clear to all Kentucky citizens that we must find new or increased sources of revenue to pay for the government services we want … and need.