Gov. Beshear's budget investments for Western Kentucky


Web Editor - Nick Miller

FRANKFORT, Ky - Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear outlined his proposed $20.3 billion General Fund budget for the next two years in a speech to lawmakers on Tuesday night.

Although his speech aimed to showcase changes for the entire state, he did outline many proposed changes for Western Kentucky.

The most important investments in the proposed budget are in the K-12 education. The largest item is SEEK, the main funding formula for classrooms in the state. SEEK grew an average of 3.4% each year between 2000 and 2008. However, funding dropped even though enrollment expanded.

Beshear recommends investing $189 million into SEEK over the next two years, bringing pupil spending to its highest total ever. That allocation will include pay increases for all teachers and classified school personnel. His proposed education investments also include money for textbooks, school facility construction, technology and equipment upgrades, and professional development.

The Governor's budget also includes changes for higher education, including $31.9 million for Murray State University towards the final phase of construction of a new science complex and a building for engineering and physics. More funds will also be allocated to construct a replacement building for Franklin Hall at Murray State University to increase the quality of student housing.

The Governor’s agency bond plan also includes an historic $145.5 million proposal that represents the single-largest investment in the Kentucky Community and Technical College system since its formation.

The Governor recommends a plan proposed by the leaders at KCTCS – to allow these colleges to use agency bonds for the first time ever to fund 75 percent of the cost of 16 critical projects. The colleges themselves will fund the other 25 percent using more traditional funds and/or private funds gathered through fundraising campaigns.

“This is a perfect example of the public and private sectors working in concert, and our KCTCS leaders say the debt service will not add to the cost of an education in any meaningful way,” Gov. Beshear said.

This includes
$7.5 million for the Western Kentucky Community and Technical College/Paducah School of Art. This project will renovate a historical 25,000-square-foot facility to complete the Paducah School of Art. The facility will house classroom, studio, office and gallery space. Academic courses as well as master workshops will be conducted in drawing, painting, digital photography and graphic design.

Broadband internet was also a focus in the governor’s speech. Gov. Beshear proposes the Next Generation Kentucky Information Highway, which includes $60 million in General Fund supported bonds to invest in high-speed Broadband capability throughout the state. An additional $40 million is planned from federal and private sources.

Two-thirds of the state’s investment would be supported by existing state expenditures set aside for Internet access. This is a critical need. Kentucky ranks 46th in broadband availability and 23 percent of rural areas don’t have any access. This project is about speed and capacity to allow Kentuckians to attract high-tech, knowledge-based and information-intensive businesses.

The Governor’s budget includes funds for the continuation of projects necessary to convert two parkways into the official Interstate 69 Corridor in western Kentucky. The new I-69 will eventually run from the Ohio River at Henderson to the Tennessee border at Fulton, incorporating parts of two other former toll roads – the Julian Carroll Purchase Parkway and the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway.

Given the financial pressures on our parks system, the Governor’s budget exempts our state parks from the 5 percent budget cuts and sets aside $8 million in General Fund-supported bonds for maintenance and $5.5 million to upgrade guest accommodations. This includes the completion of the U.S. 68/Ky. 80 bridges at Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake.

To read Beshear's full budget proposal, click here.