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Representative Dennis Keene’s View on Budget Impasse

Representative Dennis Keene’s View on Budget Impasse

The bottom line is that when states cut education it results in a tax on families and weakens our economy”

Rep. Keene (01-28-16) -1Frankfort, KY—We are in the final days of the legislative session and despite committee hearings, expert testimony, data and charts, The General Assembly is once again deadlocked on finalizing and passing a budget.  When the leaders of our respective chambers are unable to reach compromise and pass a budget, everybody loses. The General Assembly must complete the session by April 15th as stated in our Constitution.

Finger pointing and blame are not productive at this point. Kentucky’s new governor presented us with his version of a budget back in January, but few details were provided for his $500 million discretionary fund. In addition, his budget proposal included severe nine percent cuts across the board to education and other agencies. This is on top of nearly four percent cuts that were passed during the last budget session.

The Democrats have held fast to the belief that on top of cuts made during the last three sessions and during the recession, our educational institutions cannot do their jobs with another drastic budget cut.  Our leaders have been willing to compromise on other spending and on allowing $250 million in the governor’s discretionary fund, but we cannot justify these education cuts.

From my chair and what I am witnessing, the Senate Republicans and Governor Bevin will not compromise on education and want to move forward with the cuts. The House has put forth a budget and proposals that strengthen education, therefore, strengthening our workforce. In addition, we are fully funding this year’s pension obligation and have appropriated a large amount towards paying down the pension debt.  Our economy has improved and the greatest need right now is for an educated, trained workforce.

The bottom line is that when states cut education it results in a tax on families and weakens our economy. Economists and budget experts have testified to this over and over during my years in the General Assembly. We must keep quality higher education and technical training that is affordable for Kentucky’s families or we will not attract businesses and compete for jobs. We will become a welfare state where our brightest young people leave the Commonwealth for better jobs elsewhere.

The most challenging economic problems facing this generation are rising higher education debt and declining wages. If a budget is not agreed upon that eliminates the governor’s proposed cuts, our economy will suffer and families will suffer. Let’s not drive our children to other states for jobs.

Willingness to compromise is the hallmark of great leadership and is necessary for progress to occur in state government.  Kentucky’s families are counting us to prepare our young people for the future and keep our state on solid financial ground.