Friday, January 29, 2010

Thoughts on the Budget

As many of you know, the Frankfort “frenzy” is in full swing. Committees are meeting, and bills are being considered.

Perhaps the most intense discussion is happening around the development of a state budget. Governor Beshear delivered a proposed budget, and it was evident that education was one of the top priorities. The Governor filled the revenue gap with proposed monies from limited gaming. The projected revenue was about $780 million over the biennium. Even with projected gaming, an across-the-board 2 percent expenditure reduction was proposed. However, the Governor’s budget did protect the SEEK school funding and even projected small increases over the next two years.

Both the House and Senate leadership have indicated that gaming revenues will not be part of the budget. As with most budget preparations that I have observed over 37 years in education, the choices are very limited. Budget developers can either reduce expenditures, raise revenues to address expenditure requests, redirect existing funds from one program to another or some combination of the previous choices. My prediction is the latter. There will be some revenue enhancement, some reductions and some redirections. Thus, the reason for the frenzy in Frankfort. Every special interest group that receives funding from the state budget will be in Frankfort over the coming weeks pleading their case for full funding.

Of course, superintendents, school boards and the Department of Education are included among the groups seeking support for programs. At the House budget committee this week, I reiterated the top three priorities for education funding. These priorities are based on input from superintendents and associations that work in education. Our priorities are to maintain SEEK funding, restore Flexible Focus Funds and fund implementation of 2009’s Senate Bill 1. The Governor’s budget included maintaining SEEK funding and some funding to implement Senate Bill 1.

The coming weeks will be critical ones for the development of the state budget. I encourage readers to let your representatives know what is important to you and your community with regard to state funding.

As for me, I do agree with one statement that President Barack Obama made in the State of the Union speech this week. “The best anti-poverty program is a world-class education.” I am afraid that reductions in education on the short term could have long-term negative effects for our children and for the economy. For that reason, I will work diligently to maintain education funding and support. I feel confident that all of the members of the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation, also support education and the need to protect this investment in our future.

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