‘Our Future Is Now,’ Gov. Beshear Tells Kentucky Calling for Big Investments

In a sparsely attended speech before the joint House and Senate, Gov. Andy Beshear once again laid out his budget priorities telling legislators it is time to spend big to move Kentucky forward.

My budget is titled: ‘Our Future Is Now.’ Because now is when we must make bold investments,” Beshear said in his address Thursday night. “Now is our chance to move our state forward: not right, not left, but forward.”

Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives jumped Beshear’s speech laying out their plans for the state’s resources last week. Since Monday day-by-day, Beshear has rolled out his budget requests culminating in the grand finale on Thursday.

“Right now we don’t have to choose – we are able to be fiscally responsible while making record investments in our people and in our future,” Beshear said. “The investments that we make now will benefit many generations to come and forever change our commonwealth.”

Beshear’s budget, which will likely be rejected out of hand by lawmakers, includes:

  • An all-time, record-setting revenue surplus, with $1.9 billion more in General Fund revenues than budgeted in the current year;
  • $1 billion in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and millions more from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act are ready to be deployed;
  • Gov. Beshear fully funds pensions and continues paying down on the commonwealth’s pension liabilities;
  • Creates a $100 million Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund.

As previously reported, Beshear’s budget adds a $2 billion investment in pre-K–12 education.

“This budget starts at the earliest age, providing universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten for every Kentucky child – for the first time ever,” said Gov. Beshear. “Pre-K helps address one of the biggest, most pressing obstacles for workforce participation. If we fund pre-K, we do more than just complain about parents getting back into the workforce. We do something about it.”

Among the education investments in the Governor’s budget:

  • Provides universal preschool for all 4-year-olds and full-day kindergarten for every Kentucky child – for the first time ever;
  • Historic 16% increase in SEEK funding;
  • 12.5% increase in base per pupil funding;
  • A minimum 5% salary increase for all school personnel;
  • Fully funds teachers’ pension and medical benefits – there will be no health insurance premium increases for school employees;
  • Designates $79 million over three years for student loan forgiveness for public school teachers – this will provide a maximum $3,000 annual award for each year of employment as a public school teacher;
  • $11 million each year on literacy, math and regional coaching;
  • Fully funds school districts’ cost for student transportation, an 81% increase in funding;
  • $22.9 million each year to restore funding for professional development as well as textbooks and instructional resources;
  • $6.2 million each year to address social/emotional and mental health learning for students and school staff across the state;
  • $6 million more each year for Family Resource and Youth Service Centers;
  • Creates two new grant programs for school districts to provide wrap-around services to students impacted by violence, substance abuse, child abuse and parental incarceration, and other training and resources to help students;
  • $97.4 million this year to support the renovation of 11 local Career and Technical Education (CTE) centers;
  • An additional $75 million for a new round of applications to renovate more CTE centers and an additional $8 million each year provides funding to 12 locally operated CTE centers;
  • Increases post-secondary education funding by nearly 12% over the biennium;
  • Funds the Better Kentucky Promise Scholarship, which provides the last dollar for associate degree- and certificate-seeking students – it will cover the cost of tuition and mandatory fees for approximately 15,700 additional students over two years; and

The spending does not stop there, he always wants to spend big on the economy and on healthcare.

Among the economic provisions in Gov. Beshear’s budget plan:

  • $250 million in one-time funds to develop a Site Identification and Development program, which his administration says will allow Kentucky to be ready for the state’s next Ford- or Toyota-size project;
  • $75 million to support a state-of-the-art agritech research and development center in the heart of Eastern Kentucky
  • $250 million from the General Fund for Major Transportation Infrastructure Projects. Specifically, this is targeting three projects: the Brent Spence companion bridge project, the I-69 Ohio River crossing in Henderson and the completion of the Mountain Parkway project;
  • $100 million to begin building up our electric vehicle charging station infrastructure;
  • Provides funding for the Better Kentucky Cleaner Water Program to provide clean drinking water to Kentucky families;
  • Adds funds to reach $500 million to expand high-speed internet to every part of the commonwealth;
  • $50 million from the General Fund to develop Kentucky’s general aviation airports, plus another $6 million to keep the Governor’s promise to support the construction of a new terminal building at the Barkley Regional Airport in Paducah;
  • Supports the expansion of the Everybody Counts program;
  • $20 million each year to launch a competitive workforce initiative grant program;
  • Provides funding to the Louisville Urban League to reinstate its commercial driver’s license program;
  • $10 million per year to fund a Talent Attraction Media Campaign to help build a globally competitive talent development system; and
  • $200 million in one-time money from the General Fund to pay for work at Kentucky State Parks.

Gov. Beshear’s budget makes investments to expand health care access, including fully funding Medicaid and Medicaid expansion.

Among the health and support provisions in Gov. Beshear’s budget plan:

  • Provides funding for additional slots in the Michelle P. Waiver program and additional slots for the Supports for Community Living waiver program;
  • $12 million to increase the number of scholarships awarded to potential nurses and $25 million to provide student loan forgiveness for nurses and nursing faculty;
  • $150 million annually to nursing homes to extend the $29 per-diem reimbursement rate increase, which expired on Dec. 31, 2021;
  • $36 million to transform Kentucky’s local health departments, with funds to be allocated to the 60 departments serving communities across the commonwealth;
  • Dedicated funding to implement the new 988 crisis support line: a three-digit number set to replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in July 2024;
  • 34% increase in funding to Domestic Violence Centers, Rape Crisis Centers and Child Advocacy Centers;
  • $36.2 million over the next two and a half years for an additional 49,000 meals per week, which fully meets the current needs of Kentucky’s senior citizens;
  • Adds 350 more social workers to reduce the average caseload by nearly 25% and includes a student loan forgiveness program for social workers – in December, the Governor provided a 10% pay raise to social workers;
  • Increases funding to the Kentucky Pediatric Cancer Research Trust Fund, in honor of David Turner Jr.;
  • $200,000 each year for the Homeless Veterans program, $700,000 annually to increase the number of veterans benefit field representatives and nearly $300,000 each year to expand outreach;
  • Includes funds to add positions at veterans cemeteries; and
  • $1 million in fiscal year 2024 to phase in operations at the newest state veterans center in Bowling Green.

“My budget gets nurses into the profession, keeps them in the profession and shows them how much we care,” said Gov. Beshear. “And as your Governor, I want each and every nurse out there to know I care about you. So this budget addresses the challenges of the present, but it also invests in our bright future.”

Other provisions in the Governor’s budget include:

  • Endorses a 6% raise for all state employees on May 1;
  • No health insurance premium increases for state employees;
  • Support for an immediate salary increase of $15,000 for Kentucky State Police (KSP) sworn officers and troopers;
  • $8,000 across-the-board pay increase for KSP telecommunicators;
  • Funds body cameras for KSP for the first time;
  • Provides a 15% training stipend increase for local and state law enforcement officers and firefighters; and
  • Returns 100% of coal severance tax revenues back to coal-producing counties.