GO CARDS! GO RACERS! GO TOPPERS…..and you too PUDDYCATS!!
CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?
I don’t mind telling you, if earlier in the session someone had wanted to bet on whether we’d need a Special Session in order to pass a budget, well, they’d be dropping my nickel in an Indiana slot machine right now!. Can you imagine! What with unresolved fallout from a contentious race for governor; redistricting and the legal challenges that followed; internal fraction within the Senate Republicans; the expanded gaming question, and a starting gate full of bills on our regular agenda to consider, few – including yours truly – believed we would have either the time or the political will to pass a state budget! Thankfully I was wrong.
Well, half way wrong. The one job expected of your General Assembly is to develop and pass a budget. Mission Accomplished! [Oh, no he di’nt say that!] ….. by the House.
Here’s what I know: We have sent to the Senate proposed legislation totaling some $19.2 billion over the two-year biennium.
• 56% for r Education: K – Higher Ed
• 22% for Medicaid and Human Services]
• 11% for Criminal Justice
• 11% for everything else needed to operate the state and provide for our citizens
“Will this meet all our needs”? No. Modest income growth has met with rising costs, the loss of federal stimulus funds and the previous use of one-time funds. We are short about $700 M.
“So, why not just cut more”? Most agencies are cut by 8.4%. Some have already been cut as much as 25%.
“Is everyone cut the same amount”. Yes. All three government branches are cut the same 8.4%.
“Yeah, but I bet there were SOME exceptions! Right”? Right. The SEEK funding was not cut. Family Resource Centers were maintained at current spending levels. No cuts to student financial aid and the KEES program; and Social Services gets a $20 M bump to hire more social workers. More cheddar was placed into Gifted and Talented, Read to Achieve and into extended school services programs.
And there’s more…
SO, HERE’S WHERE YOUR BUTTER GETS CHURNED:
We saved $372 M over the upcoming biennium by reforming Medicaid and going to a managed care system .
We also began reducing what was the fastest growing prison population in the nation, by more than 4,600 inmates. This allows us to plow $9 M back into the system for substance abuse treatment. Hopefully, some of this will also be used for prevention.
Unfortunately, for the second year in a row, state workers – including judges, retirees and yours truly and those of my ilk – will not receive a raise. There is no COLA for retirees and teachers have to pay more into their retirement for health benefits.
Veterans Affairs and coal severance funding is not getting cut. A new Veterans nursing home is authorized – pending approval from the Feds – in Hardin Co.
Meals-On-Wheels and other elder services gets an extra $5M.
Listen UP if you’re tardy with your taxes…. The first Tax Amnesty program in 10 years is authorized. We think it will bring in about $55M when folks take advantage of it.
Now, each of the House Budget bills [the Executive, Judicial and the Legislative branch budgets] heads to the Senate. There, they are likely to be “overhauled” – which will lead to the assignment of a House and Senate conference committee to work up a budget compromise…hopefully. Of course the Senate could simply agree these plans are brilliant and represent the best use of limited state resources…
Would you recognize a “Pill Mill” in our community? Ever noticed the many “pain clinics” that have opened around town? Or the “Pain Doctors” offices that are newly opened? I have, and so has the legislature. More on these later, but as you drive around, let me know what you observe.
Last week’s tornado outbreak weighed heavily on each of us this week. Many or our members wanted to be home with their families and helping their communities cope. They chose, instead, to remain in Frankfort; conducting the People’s Business. We in the House pledged to raise $10 K toward the relief efforts for all Kentucky. Repubs and Dems. Members and Staff. I was proud to be part of this commitment! As of today, I can report we have raised over $22 K — and are working to have $25 K by Monday!
Question of the Week – Good idea or Bad idea? Allowing people to come into our state parks or on state property to hunt for and collect items using metal detectors.
CONTACT ME: Call me directly at 502.564.8100 or write me at Rm. 329C, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601. I’m also on FACEBOOK so hit me up there or online at Reginald.Meeks@lrc.ky.gov or at http://reginaldmeeks.com. To reach any particular legislator, contact our toll – free number at 800.372.7181. For the deaf or hard-of-hearing, that number is 800.896.0305