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Kentucky Democrats call timing of House budget proposal release 'beyond petty'

According to a release, the House proposal includes "record funding" for education, as well as money for pay raises, pensions and infrastructure.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Less than a week before Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Kentucky, was expected to present his state budget proposal, Republican leaders in the Kentucky House of Representatives filed budget legislation of their own.

The GOP plan includes a 6% pay bump for Kentucky state workers, a $15,000 pay bump for Kentucky State Patrol troopers and funding to purchase KSP body cameras. 

Rep. Jason Petrie, R-Elkton, filed the legislation Friday. According to a release, the House proposal includes "record funding" for education, as well as money for pay raises, pensions and infrastructure.

The legislation allocates more than $51 billion in state and federal funding through three separate bills, HB 1, HB 241 and HB 244.

"Ultimately, these bills provide a solid, responsible approach consistent with our state's needs and obligations and our philosophy that we must carefully consider every allocation we make," Petrie said in the release.

Petrie said the proposal was crafted after months of work by House budget review subcommittees.

House Speaker David Osborne, R-Prospect, applauded the legislation, calling it a "responsible plan" that will help meet Kentucky's needs both now and in the future.

"I know there are those calling for us to spend federal dollars as fast as we receive them, but you can't spend the same dollar twice - we have to get it right the first time," Osborne said.

Questionable timing

The House budget proposal is usually submitted after the governor provides his budget recommendations. However, Beshear is not scheduled to provide his budget address until Thursday, Jan. 13.

"Today's actions are concerning as they violate both long-standing practice and state law," Beshear's Communications Director Crystal Staley said in a statement. In her statement, Staley said neither the Kentucky executive branch nor the governor were told about the House proposal.

"Of more concern is that the House's budget fails to make the game-changing investments that Kentuckians will see in the Governor's recommended budget," Staley said.

House Democratic Caucus leaders Joni Jenkins, Derrick Graham and Angie Hatton said filing the legislation before the governor's address - and without consulting the executive branch - was "beyond petty."

"We may as well wrap up the 2022 legislative session now, because all of the major decisions apparently have been made," the caucus leaders said in a statement. "This is not good government; in fact, it's barely government at all."

Kentucky's House and Senate both have GOP supermajorities, meaning even if Beshear, a Democrat, were to veto their budget package, they could likely get the votes to override the veto.

What's in the proposal?

The House budget proposal includes funding for several sectors including education, justice, government and infrastructure. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Increase overall funding for K-12 schools, including enough money to cover the entire cost of full-day kindergarten
  • Fully fund the Kentucky Teachers Retirement System, increasing the contribution from $438 million to more than $1 billion each year
  • Create a new health care workforce initiative at state colleges and universities
  • Raise salaries for social workers and provide enough money to fund an additional 100 social worker positions
  • Fund pay increases for Kentucky State Troopers, Motor Vehicle Inspectors and telecommunicators
  • Fund the purchase of integrated body camera systems for KSP
  • Provide funding for infrastructure, road maintenance and aviation
  • Add a 6% raise for public employees
  • Use American Rescue Plan funds for clean water and wastewater projects
  • Return the unemployment funds to pre-pandemic levels
  • Provide enough money to fully fund the Kentucky Retirement System 

The full details of the proposed House budget will be available to read online.

The legislation will be submitted to the House Appropriations and Revenue Committee for consideration during the 2022 legislative session.

Contact reporter Rachel Droze at rdroze@whas11.com. Follow her on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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