In just over four months lawmakers will be back in Frankfort for a full 60 day session. This winter, legislators must approve a new two year budget. While the state finished last year with a budget surplus, Senate Appropriations and Revenue Committee Chair Bob Leeper doesn’t anticipate any big increase in state revenue. So, Leeper says building a budget will remain difficult.
“There’s so many factors that are affecting us, what’s happening in the eastern Kentucky coal fields, loss of jobs there, loss of income for people to go out and buy goods. There’s any number of issues going on worldwide, nationwide that we can’t control,” said Leeper.
House Budget Committee Chair Rick Rand sounds a similar tone. He says the growth predicted by state experts is not as “robust” as they had hoped.
“As we go through the process, there may be some adjustment to those numbers, I hope so. Never the less, they’ve proven to be pretty accurate with their predictions, so we take them very seriously and we respect the work they do, and you know, we were hoping for better, but it is what it is and we’ll just have to budget to the numbers they give us,” added Rand.
While money is expected to be tight, Rand does hope some funding can be set aside for some building projects.
“It will soon be a decade since we’ve done any capital investment in our community college system, which I think is very, very important and as well as other needs the state has. I hope we’re able to do some capital projects in the coming budget. I think we can find ways to do that. I think they’re important to move the Commonwealth forward, especially in terms of education,” said Rand.
The work done by state budget writers is complicated by unanticipated expenses. For example, Bob Leeper is worried about the cost of health care reforms.
“Well, I mean in the years out it’s gonna be a definite impact. Early on, there’s a considerable amount of federal money put on that and so everybody points to that and they forget that we’re the federal government. Our taxpayers are the people that fund that,” said Leeper.
Lawmakers return to Frankfort January seventh for the start of the 2014 session.