Maybe it was the trail of feathers down the hallway, into my office and around my desk…. Or that when Big Blue Nation supporters came to visit me they wore enough Redbird feathers to make several dusters. But when I arrived on the House Floor, one would have thought there wasn’t a clothed Cardinal in the entire state. They got me good, thanks in part to a creative staff and an unnamed Jefferson County conspirator. Speaking for every RED BLOODED KENTUCKIAN , I must say the Ali – Liston fight will appear to be little more than a street brawl when the University of Louisville shakes up the known civilized world!
Most people these days seem to be focused on winning and losing. Many actually believe the inevitability of a Big Blue championship; the only real issue being the margin of victory. Following this line of irrationality, why even play the game? Just hand out the trophies, sign over the coaching bonuses and let the dreads on the losing side get by the best they can. It’s the ultimate Bluegrass Zero Sum game. But plans to lay others low likely as not end up biting you in the trunk. Ask Duke or Syracuse, Michigan State — or any number of known and lesser known political candidates.
Nothing on this court of life is promised. Not winning. Not losing. There may be better players than you. There may even be a better team on the court facing you. But nothing is promised – them to win, nor you to lose. Even when you can’t beat them, refuse to lose to them…. That’s why they play the game; your very best game. In the emphatic words of Coach Valvano, “Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up!”
Budget conferees didn’t give up. When negotiations stretched into the early hours of the morning, they did not give up. The job you sent us here to do – pass a budget – will be completed today. Many compromises will have been made. Cuts will be confirmed. Leadership will get their usual road and other projects that few os us regular Joe’s receive.
I suspect most of us found real and quantifiable good in the budget. Some will hold their noses and vote for it. Others took a pass. Despite having only a few hours to review and compare and study, it is done.
It’s important to note that for the first time since 2006, the General Assembly passed a state budget without having to rely on a Special Session. That’s good. But don’t go getting all warm and fuzzy. There’s a game this weekend, and, frankly, this notion of us working together very long is about like expecting Cats fans to cheer for the Louisville Cardinals on Monday night! LOL!
SO, HERE’S WHERE YOUR BUTTER GETS CHURNED:
There’s too much to include in one weekly update, but I’d like to focus on a few key areas. You should know our state budget is $19.2 Billion. While modest growth is projected to continue over the next 2 years, rising costs, the ending of federal stimulus funding and the previous use of one-time funds account for the need for deep cuts that we made.
State borrowing is at the lowest levels in years. Authorized debt is $391 M. This is $580 M less than the Governor authorized and results in a debt ratio of 6.5%. The proposed debt ratio would have been 7.1%. The structural imbalance of the state is cut in half. None of this is where we want to be, but it’s a significant improvement in the right direction.
The Budget Reserve Trust Fund [i.e. Rainy Day Fund] is $ 72.7 M. These are our emergency funds and goodness knows we have needed them. As savings accrue and the state’s economy continues to grow, both the Senate and the House acknowledge this to be an important feature of this budget.
Concerning the Department of Education, base funding for schools remains intact. Both the Statewide IT Academy and KET are funded. Also the Family Resource and Youth Service Centers; Extended School Services; Gifted and Talented program; the Community Education program and funding for Read to Achieve and KEES and other financial assistance sources are funded. SEEK formula is maintained at the current level. The Governor Scholars program is funded in each of the fiscal years; $64 K is added in each year for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing above that provided by the Governor and the Office for the Blind receives an additional $50 K in each year above what would have been provided.
Medicaid is not cut and savings from last year’s reform amounts to more than $300 M. Nearly $20 M is added to boost substance abuse services and $6 M is added to help Kentuckians with mental illness.
The KASPER system will get about $4.2 M to better track and prevent prescription drug abuse. $9 M will go to counties to help with their jail costs.
Thankfully, with House Leadership and public pressure, assistance for indigent healthcare in Louisville will be maintained. Also, the State Fair Board will get $5.5 M to cover deficits at the YUM Center.
WE HAVE YET TO PASS THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET. And HB 4 remains in the Senate because of what appeared to be a “CATS fight” that broke out among some of our friends in that Chamber… ☺
For the second year in a row, there are no new raises for state workers. Also no COLA for retirees.
Question of the Week – When the Cards win, will the sun come up on Sunday morning??
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