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by GARY TAPP
The Senate passed its version of the budget and we are now working with the House of Representatives in a budget conference committee. This committee is charged with working out the differences between the House and Senate version of the budget bills.
There are a few variations between the two versions that outline the different priorities between the Senate and our counterparts in the House. For example, the House budget took on the burden of about $2.2 billion worth of public debt for capital projects, and it took away a tax exemption from employers struggling to keep Kentuckians employed. According to media reports, some representatives have even gone so far as to say that businesses can’t create jobs now and therefore, it is up to government to create jobs.
Thankfully, the Senate’s budget proposal supports job creation through the private sector while providing a level of government services we can afford. It restores tax cuts removed by the House that amount to $280 million, while creating other avenues for the Economic Development Cabinet to recruit businesses to Kentucky. By putting our financial house in order and keeping down our state debt, we are sending a message to Kentucky workers and employers that we can make responsible choices when it comes to managing your tax dollars.
The Senate budget also added the two instructional school days that the House eliminated and we also provided greater local autonomy to school districts so they can better manage their funds. Kentucky’s Education Commissioner has informed us that the two days are very important to our Race to the Top federal grant application and has said that the districts can manage with the tools we are providing such as allowing them to use up to 50 percent of their capital outlay funds, use parent volunteers as kindergarten aides, and use greater discretion when it comes to classroom size.
I believe this is a budget Kentuckians can live with. Families across the commonwealth have been making the same hard choices and state government cannot be set apart from these times. The Senate budget prepares Kentucky for a better day. Keeping taxes low, encouraging economic development, emphasizing education, providing local districts more financial flexibility, and funding adult education are ways to encourage the private sector to create more jobs.
We hope that the House conference members will understand this as we continue our discussions. It is my hope that a consensus budget document will be voted on by both chambers next week.