Hope remains for state budget compromise
By State Representative Martha Jane King

Posted on January 1, 0001 12:00 AM

Although budget negotiations between House and Senate leaders ended on Wednesday, March 31, there is still time for a compromise to be reached before April 15, when the legislative session must end. The House is committed to returning to the bargaining table, but we feel strongly that any agreement must avoid the kind of short-term cuts that could lead to long-term problems.
It is imperative to get a budget this month if we are to avoid a special session, and as your state representative, I do not want to have to spend additional taxpayer monies to pay for that session.
I am a taxpayer, too, and I want to finish the job on time, as expected by us all. We must have a budget in place before July 1 to avoid having to close a wide array of state agencies, which is what would happen under a ruling earlier this decade by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Again, the Kentucky House of Representatives stands ready to work on the budget up to April 15. Thursday, April 1, the Senate moved closer to that goal by offering another budget proposal, a sign that chamber’s leaders are ready to negotiate as well. We will meet the Senate halfway, but we feel Senate leaders will need to come closer in four key areas:
· The Senate’s original budget would cut per-pupil funding (SEEK), but the April 1 proposal recognized the need to reverse that. Still, family resource/youth services centers and a host of needed educational programs like KEES (lottery-based scholarships) would still be cut.
· The House cannot accept deeper cuts from kindergarten to college, especially as the state celebrates the 20th anniversary of KERA while remaining a top finalist for the Race to the Top program.
· The Senate budget, or its latest proposal, would not protect Medicaid from crippling cuts. Our plan already called for hundreds of millions of dollars in efficiencies that the Cabinet for Health and Family Services was prepared to meet.
· The Senate budget would not consider the bulk of the “Kentucky Jobs for Kentucky Families” program, which would create25,000 jobs and build new schools, roads, and infrastructure from Pikeville to Paducah.
House Bills going to the governor for his signature:
House Bill 540 Teacher retirement cost-saving bill, is expected to save taxpayers an estimated $61 million over the next two years by reducing how much the state is required to contribute to the fund. The state would have to borrow about $340 million to meet its contribution to the fund should the bill not pass.
House Bill 398, Farm animal welfare bill, establishes a panel to advise the state on equine health matters and work towards the creation of care centers for unwanted, neglected and abused horses. The legislation was amended as it worked its way through the legislative process to include provisions that would create the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission and prevent local governments, with some exceptions, from having on-farm livestock or poultry care standards that exceed state standards.
House Bill 265 , a bill to fight drug use and DUI, would make it a misdemeanor crime to possess, traffic or produce “synthetic marijuana”- basically any plant coated with a substance that mimics the hallucinogenic compound THC found in actual marijuana-or piperazine pills commonly used to treat roundworm and pinworms. Both drugs would also be classified as having the same potential for abuse as heroin or LSD.
HB 265 would discourage driving while intoxicated by creating a “per se” DUI offense that would allow a driver to be charged with DUI if illegal drugs or certain prescribed drugs that were not prescribed to the driver are found in the person’s blood. The bill would also make it easier to prosecute DUI offenders who hurt or kill someone in a car wreck while driving intoxicated by lowering the blood alcohol level required to prosecute someone under the state’s aggravated DUI law from 0.18 to 0.15.
House Bill 377 , Veteran’s service bill, requires veterans with combat experience in the National Guard or U.S. Armed Forces who have been arrested to be identified and-if they choose-connected immediately to services offered by the Kentucky National Guard Family Services Program or similar programs.
For now, I want to emphasize how much I appreciate the many calls, letters and emails I have received during the last three months. My colleagues and I could not do our job without them.
If you would like to take part as well, now or later in the year, I can be reached by writing to Room 329-J, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601.
You can also leave a message for me or for any legislator at 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.

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