The House committee charged with overseeing the budget has taken its first official steps in the process. The House Appropriations and Revenue Committee took reports from subcommittees and accepted their recommendations at a meeting today. The House plan deviates slightly from Governor Steve Beshear’s proposal. It delays the start of substance abuse programs in Medicaid and the creation of an Adult Abuse registry, saving more than two million dollars in the process.
It also halves the money the governor designated for preschool funding. But it keeps other initiatives intact, like one million dollars in state funding for cancer screenings for the uninsured. House Budget Chairman Rick Rand says the governor is aware of many of the changes and has indicated that he’s OK with at least a few of them.
“I would say so. You’d need to ask him specifically, I don’t know if we’ve gone over every single detail but I think most of the big items he’s aware of,” Rand says.
Rand says overall, the budget spends the same amount of money as the governor proposed, with just a few cuts moved around and other cuts restored. That means there's not a lot of winners in this budget, he added.
“I don’t think there’s any big winners in this. You know it’s a tough budget. You know we nibble around the edges a little bit. And our priorities were a little bit different than the governor’s. But hopefully K-12 education faired well," Rand says.
The budget also doesn’t include any agency bond projects for the state universities, except for one at Eastern Kentucky University.
Rand says that’s because House leadership believes the state can’t afford more debt.
Here are the highlights from the House's proposed changes to the budget, which could be changed once again when it heads to the Senate.
--$1 million over two years for colon cancer screenings for the uninsured, matched by $1 million in private donations, is still in the budget
--Authorizing language for the University of Kentucky's dorm partnership remains
--Judicial branch cut 8.4 percent, a House change.
--Legislative branch cut 8.4 percent.
--No university agency bond projects are allowed, except for Eastern Kentucky University to refinance its energy savings performance contract. That means more than $400 million in bonded debt to expand campuses, build or renovate dorms and university buildings at all other universities will not be approved. Rand says House leadership determined the state could not afford that bonded debt.
--An extra $420,000 each fiscal year for the Louisville Waterfront Development Corp.
--An extra $100,000 each fiscal year for Actors Theatre in Louisville.
--An extra $50,000 each fiscal year for the Bluegrass State Games.
--Requires the Kentucky Horse Park and State Fair Board to provide business plans for reducing General Fund reliance in their budgets. Funds each organization for the current fiscal year only. Rand says the Fair Board is normally self-sustaining and should return to that with the open of the new Bluegrass Boardwalk (old Kentucky Kingdom) amusement park and with a new hotel.
--Authorizes $100,000 a year for veterans with brain trauma.
--Moves KASPER prescription tracking system to Attorney General's office, removes coal severance tax funding and adds more than $4 million in restricted funds for operation. Also includes provisions of House Bill 4, which would include a fee to doctors who will be forced to use the KASPER system.
--Allows Secretary of State office to use an additional $150,000 a fiscal year from the office's restricted fund account.
--Suspends cost of living adjustments for retirees in Kentucky Retirement System for the next two years. Also reduces operational funds for the Kentucky Retirement Systems by $1.4 million each year during the same cycle.
--Reduces number of positions for new tax amnesty program from 155 to 85.
--"Phasing-in" of substance abuse programs in Medicaid, moving $1.7 million to other areas.
--Requires all Medicaid Managed Care Organizations to provide quarterly budget reports, due no later than 45 days after the end of a quarter, and to report at least once a year to Medicaid oversight committee.
--"Phasing-in" of Adult Abuse Registry, moving $500,000 to General Fund
--Restores 2.2 percent cut to Commonwealth and County attorneys.
--No funding for new family courts or salary increases for judges.
--Creates new Adult Learner Degree Initiative, requiring Council for Postsecondary Education to develop program and request two public universities to lead new program.
--Provides $7.5 million for increased preschool attendance in fiscal year 2014, allowing children whose income is 160 percent of the federal poverty level.
--Restores $1.2 million in funding each year for Kentucky Educational Television.
Rand says the House plans to vote the entire budget, minus the road plan, out of committee tomorrow and it could be voted on in the full House by the end of the week.